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More than 1.2 million Chrysler vehicles may have similar ignition switch problems to those that have plagued General Motors, leading to the recall of millions of vehicles and causing dozens of accidents and deaths nationwide.
On June 16, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched two investigations into Chrysler vehicles, both involving reports of problems with the ignition switches and how the cars turn on and off.
One NHTSA investigation (PDF) involves half a million Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles, coming in response to at least 32 complaints that the operator’s knee or leg jarred the ignition key, turning the vehicle off. This results in the vehicle stalling, affects the ability to turn and brake and could deactivate the air bags if an accident occurs, the NHTSA warns.
The investigation affects an estimated 525,000 model year 2006-2007 Jeep Commander and 2005-2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles. Since this is a preliminary investigation, no vehicles have yet been recalled, and there is no guarantee that the investigation will result in a recall being issued.
The second investigation (PDF) affects 700,000 model year 2008-2010 Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Journey and Chrysler Town & Country vehicles. At least 23 complaints have been received in connection with those vehicles. When the ignition key is turned to the START position, it is supposed to spring back to the RUN position when released. However, complaints suggest that instead it is springing back past the RUN position and ending up between the RUN and ACC position.
Bumpy roads or anything that jars the key, FOB or key ring can turn the key to the ACC position, potentially disabling the air bags in case of an accident.
Both investigations are in their preliminary stages, as NHTSA investigators look into the scope, frequency and consequence of the problems. At least one auto accident has been linked to the Jeep ignition switch problem, but no injuries or deaths.
NHTSA Taking Quick Action
The NHTSA has faced substantial criticism in recent months following GM’s recall of about 6 million vehicles that suffered similar ignition switch problems. Records show that investigators warned superiors at the NHTSA about problems that affected 2.5 million of those cars for years, but no action was taken.
There are currently three separate major GM ignition switch recalls. The first and most controversial affects 2.5 million small cars, and GM acknowledges that it knew about the problems, which caused heavy key rings or jarring impacts to turn off the car and disable air bags, for more than a decade before announcing a recall.
The first GM ignition switch recall was originally announced in February, affecting Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5 and other small vehicles. It has been expanded several times since then.
The second recall, announced late last week, affects half a million Chevrolet Camaros with ignition problems that are identical to those cited in the Chrysler investigation. The third appears to be a problem with ignition key weight and affects more than three million GM cars, including luxury Cadillac and Buick models.
GM faces a growing number of ignition switch recall lawsuits over the recall affecting Cobalts and other small cars. The lawsuits consist of both personal injury and wrongful death claims by people who were injured or lost loved ones when air bags failed to deploy during accidents, and economic lawsuits filed by investors and vehicle owners who say that GM’s actions led to a depreciation of the value of the cars and the company’s stocks.
Photo courtesy of alv1nW/Flickr via Creative Commons