A test on the country's best-selling minivan shows an unexpected and significant fuel leak in side impact crash tests. Data obtained by CBS News reveals that during a test, two gallons of fuel gushed out of the 1999 Dodge Caravan in just five minutes; that is 50 times more the government limit of 4/100th of a gallon. After thirty minutes, 11 gallons had gushed out.
"Only a gallon or two of fuel is enough to cause a catastrophic fire," says Clarence Ditlow of the Center For Auto Safety. "Eleven gallons of fuel is just a huge amount!"
The problem, investigators say, is that the filler hose separates from the gas tank. "They spill so much gasoline, that you may very well burn to death, even though you survived a crash," Ditlow says.
It's not Chrysler's first minivan fuel problem. The '96 Caravan was recalled twice.
The latest test results have sparked a federal investigation into two million 1996-1999 Chrysler and Plymouth minivans on the road today.
Daimler-Chrysler responded to the report by saying that it had not observed fuel leaks "in any side impact crash tests (we have) conducted with the subject vehicles." The company also says there have been no reports that "similar events have occurred on the road."
If investigators find there's a design flaw in Chrysler's fuel system, it could trigger a massive recall.