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NHTSA looks at Chrysler ignitions

by David Zatz on

Chrysler Town & Country - Dodge Caravan minivans

NHTSA has opened an investigation into ignition switches on 2008-2009 Chrysler and Dodge minivans and Dodge Journeys, to see whether the switch can move to the Accessory position (from Run) due to bumps or being hit by the driver. This would both stop the engine and disable the airbags.

Chrysler did recall 2010 minivans and Journeys in March 2011 for this problem (recalls 11V139 and 11V151), but the NHTSA database includes complaints which may indicate that the problem also existed in 2008-09 cars, and that the Chrysler recall may not have completely fixed the problem.

700,000 vehicles may be affected, according to the NHTSA’s documents. To date, NHTSA has documented 23 complaints, with no crashes or injuries.

Another investigation, PE 14-017, covering over half a million Jeep Commanders (2006-07) and Grand Cherokees (2005-06), has disappeared from the NHTSA’s web site. There have been 32 complaints about these vehicles from drivers who claim their knee could hit their keys and knock the ignition off, so that the airbag would not deploy and the engine would shut off.  In this case, there has been one crash with no reports of injuries or deaths.

While comparisons with General Motors are inevitable, the Chrysler system was used on a limited number of cars; there was no apparent cover-up; there have been no known deaths or injuries; and the span of time for the problem currently stands at two or three model years only.

NHTSA is required to investigate complaints once they reach a critical mass, but not all investigations find fault and require recalls.

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