Feds investigate 1.2-million Chrysler vehicles for faulty ignitions

Feds investigate 1.2-million Chrysler vehicles for faulty ignitions
This 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan is one of more than 1.2-million Chrysler vehicles that are being investigated by NHTSA for potentially faulty ignition switches. (Chrysler Group)

More than 1.2-million Chrysler vehicles are the subject of two federal investigations into whether faulty ignition switches can lead to the failure of safety features such as airbags, power steering and brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it had opened a preliminary investigation into whether an estimated 525,000 Jeep SUVs should be recalled, and another investigation into the effectiveness of an existing recall for an estimated 700,000 Chrysler and Dodge minivans and crossovers.

The issue is strikingly similar to one announced in millions of General Motors vehicles earlier this year that has been tied to at least 13 deaths and several investigations. One crash and no injuries or deaths have been reported as a result of Chrysler's ignition issues.

"Chrysler Group is awaiting additional information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration," the automaker said Wednesday in a statement. "The Company is prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation."

The first investigation affects Jeep Commander SUVs for 2006-2007 and Jeep Grand Cherokees for 2005-2006. Contact from the driver's knee can move the ignition key from the run position to the accessory or off positions.

This could disable the power steering, brakes and airbags, NHTSA said. The agency has received 32 complaints of stalling and one crash in these Jeeps, though no reports of airbags failing to deploy.

NHTSA will open a preliminary investigation into whether these affected Jeep models should be recalled.

The second investigation is related to a March 2011 recall of Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and County, and Dodge Journey vehicles from the 2010 model year. Bumpy roads or contact with the driver's knee could knock the ignition from the run position to the accessory position, potentially disabling the airbags.

Based on complaints from owners of these vehicles from the 2008 and 2009 model years, NHTSA is looking into whether it should expand the initial recall to include them. The safety agency has also received complaints from owners of the 2010 models that have already been repaired.

The NHTSA will assess whether the initial recall was sufficient and may expand it.

Both of Chrysler's ignition-switch issues mirror those in 2.6-million vehicles recalled by GM this year. GM is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice and several congressional committees into why its recalls were issued in 2014, when the issue was known internally for more than a decade. At least 13 deaths have been tied to GM's faulty ignition switches.