3 On Your Side: Woman's Jeep catches on fire

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by LiAna Gonzales

azfamily.com

Posted on June 17, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 19 at 11:56 AM

PHOENIX -- A valley woman's SUV erupts in flames. Now, she's wondering if this could happen to others. And even though Kasey Mills loves Jeeps, she doesn't feel like she's being treated like a loyal Jeep customer.

Mills is a traveling physical therapist so having reliable transportation is crucial. "I loved my Grand Cherokee," says Mills. “I've had a Jeep Cherokee for eight or nine years. My last one was a 1998 so I decided to go brand new, because I know I run them into the ground.”

And it was just last year when Mills decided to trade in her Jeep for another Jeep. "I purchased a new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee last March," she says.

Mills loved her new Jeep. And she had good luck with it until recently, when something went wrong. "All of a sudden I heard something, and I looked over and my visor just melted off the ceiling on the passenger side," Mills tells 3TV. "And then flames started, and it caught on fire. I was freaking out, and the windows were down, so the fire was blowing."

In a matter of seconds Mills says her entire passenger side was engulfed in flames.

"I quickly pulled into the gas station and called 911 right away. And then I ran into the gas station and said my car was on fire," Mills recalls. "That fire caught within, I mean, seconds. It went from my visor melting down to fire on the ceiling to fire on the seat. I mean, anyone could've been sitting there."

Luckily Mills says she was OK . But she wondered what would cause the inside of her Jeep go up in flames.

"After a lot of investigation from my insurance company, from Chrysler, they determined it was a short in the wire that ran from the front of the car to the light in the visor," Mills tells us.

Mills says Chrysler doesn't deny a wiring problem caused the fire. However, Mills felt Jeep wasn't taking the matter seriously enough, and believed there could be a bigger safety problem.

So, she started talking to Chrysler, Jeep's parent company. Chrysler reportedly said they would put her in a new Jeep, but at a cost.

“Now, Chrysler is saying that I have to pay the difference between my payoff amount and the purchase of the new vehicle, which is between $3,000 to $6,000," Mills says.

Jeep Chrysler later reduced Mills' out-of-pocket expense by saying they could put her in a brand new Jeep, if she could come up with $1,600.

But Mills says she was shocked at that offer, believing that she shouldn't be out-of-pocket any amount for a fire she didn't cause.

"I liked my car and I didn't’t ask for this," she says. "I didn’t try to catch my car on fire. It spontaneously caught on fire.”

3 On Your Side asked Jeep Chrysler if Mills' fire should spark a recall of some kind.

The car giant avoided answering that question, but a Jeep Chrysler spokesman said the company couldn't justify giving Mills a new car, because the one that caught fire had 24,000 miles on it.

The company also said: “We have been working with her,” and that “We have been reasonable and responsible and will defend our actions."

Mills says it's alarming that her Jeep would catch fire like it did. "Jeep or Chrysler should be taking a lot stronger look at this, because most people that own SUVs like that have families. So this could be very, very detrimental to anyone who owns this type of vehicle if they don't figure this out."

Mills plans to file a vehicle complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which monitors situations like these.

In the meantime, she hopes our report brings awareness to other Jeep owners.

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