NHTSA Investigating Chrysler Ignition Switches

USA TODAY

June 19, 2014

As another hearing began Wednesday into the General Motors (GM) ignition switch recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it has opened two probes into similar possible ignition switch defects in about 1.25 million vehicles from the Chrysler Group of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

A NHTSA statement said that both new investigations "are an outcome of NHTSA's communication with automotive manufacturers and suppliers regarding air bag design and performance related to the position of the vehicle ignition switch," an effort stepped up in the wake of the GM recalls.

Chrysler Group said in a statement that the "Group is awaiting additional information from (NHTSA). The Company is prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation."

The GM switch recalls now total about 8 million vehicles, including another one this week of 3.16 million cars. The switches can be bumped inadvertently or jarred by a rough road out of the "run" position, shutting off the engine and disabling power steering and brake assist and, usually, the air bags.

A NHTSA statement said: "The (Chrysler) investigations involve issues of inadvertent ignition key rotation from the 'run' position to the 'accessory' position. While NHTSA has received complaints of stalling related to these models, the agency is not aware of any related incidents involving air bag non-deployments at this time."

The agency has linked no deaths or injuries to the Chrysler switch issue.

The initial GM recalls of small cars in February and March are linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes. The latest GM recall this week is linked with eight crashes and six injuries.

One of the new NHTSA investigations covers about 700,000 2008-2010 Dodge Journey SUVs and Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans.

NHTSA said the spring in the switch can pop the switch back to a position beyond "run" and "accessory" after the vehicle is started and in that position, it is vulnerable to turning off the engine if bumped or jarred.

The 2010 models of these vehicles already were recalled in 2011 for the ignition switch, but NHTSA says it has had further complaints about vehicles that got the recall fix, which NHTSA approved at the time.

The second NHTSA ignition investigation covers about 525,000 2006-2007 Jeep Commanders and 2005-2006 Jeep Grand Cherokees, about which NHTSA has complaints that the driver's knee can bump the ignition and move it out of "run."

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