A Fire In a 2015 Nissan Juke Shouldn’t Have Been Possible After a 2014 Recall.

Michael GrossmanAugust 24, 2017 3 minutes

In late 2014, Nissan issued a serious recall related to its Juke model vehicle, classified as a "subcompact crossover" or "mini SUV." As you can see below, it resembles a standard SUV but is scaled down to sedan or hatchback proportions.

Despite using a showroom picture, I'm not trying to sell anybody this car. I mentioned a serious recall and I meant "serious." Recall #14V683000 was issued to bring attention to the vehicle's fuel pressure sensors, which "may not have been sufficiently tightened during production." Because that terminology makes it sound sort of negligible--a "cupholder may not hold 108-ounce BladderBuster™ beverages" kind of problem--let me elaborate: simply driving the Juke normally may cause the fuel pressure sensor to loosen, allowing fuel leakage. Naturally for an explosion-powered machine, said leakage greatly increases the chance of combustion.

Nissan of course took the right steps by issuing the recall after learning of the issue, but don't give them a gold star just yet. We recently learned that the company's efforts may not have been enough to catch all the at-risk vehicles.

What Happened?

Alabama motorist Adrienne Scott bought a 2015 Nissan Juke new from dealer Jack Ingram Motors, Inc. While driving the vehicle, she smelled gas inside the car, so she returned to have it inspected. The dealership's technicians maintained they couldn't find any leaks and sent her on her way.

Two days later, the Juke caught fire while she was driving it. It doesn't appear that she was significantly injured, but she took the dealership and Nissan itself to court, alleging negligence and breach of warranty. She was certainly right to do so; she bought a car, not a tiki torch. The case is ongoing and it appears that some of it will be resolved through arbitration, but Scott deserves compensation no matter how it is achieved. To me, though, the most troubling element of her case is that her car--which seems to have caught fire in the manner described by the recall--was outside of the range of years mentioned by Nissan. If the 2015 can go up in flames, why is the recall only for 2012-2014 models?*

*Note: I know the recall was issued in late 2014 and time machines don't exist, so it may seem like 2015 models couldn't have been included. However, 2015 Jukes would have begun manufacture and distribution in mid-2014, and at least some could have been part of the recall assessment.

Is Nissan Being Less than Truthful?

While Ms. Scott's vehicle fire hasn't conclusively been blamed on a loose fuel pressure sensor, her circumstances sure sound like those in the recall. If it does turn out that the sensor came loose, then the 2015 models should have been recalled as well.

It's possible when Nissan was alerted to the problem with the 2012-2014 models (built from 2011 through early 2014), it didn't get the word around to its factories and contractors in time to prevent more units from being made in the same faulty way. 2015 Jukes might well have undergone the same flawed process as before up until Nissan could bring uniform standards to all its production branches, at which time the fuel pressure sensors would have been properly tightened from that point forward. The flawed models would look indistinguishable from the fixed ones, so the recall has to be for any of them that could be affected so that fires don't have a chance to start.

Since #14V683000, Nissan hasn't issued any further communications about loose fuel pressure sensors. Presumably that means that once they caught the problem, they fixed the production issue that kept the sensors from being tightly secured in place, and future productions won't suffer from the same flaw. Of course, this isn't Nissan's first recall for the same problem with the Juke:

This says to me that Nissan learned of the problem and issued a recall, believed they had fixed the issue in their fabrication process, chugged merrily along for two solid years making more fire-prone mini SUVs, then realized that the flaw was still there. They issued a new recall and vowed they had their act together, but who's to say it's true now any more than it was in 2012?