Feds Investigate Fiat Chrysler for Ignition Switch Problems

Jun 18, 2014 02:32 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Ignition switch problems similar to those that affected 2.6 million General Motors small cars could be haunting Fiat Chrysler.

The automaker is under investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after reports that airbags in around 70,000 of its vehicles can fail to deploy if a driver bumps the key, The Detroit News reported.

The investigation includes Grand Caravan, Town and Country and Journey minivans from model years 2008-'10. The NHTSA is aware of 23 complaints related to ignition switches moving out of the "run position" but no crashes, injuries or deaths.

The agency is additionally investigating 525,000 2006-'07 Jeep Commander and 2005-'06 Jeep Grand Cherokee after 32 complaints that the ignition can be switched off if the driver's knee bumps the key fob.

"While NHTSA has received complaints of stalling related to these models, the agency is not aware of any related incidents involving airbag non-deployments at this time," the NHTSA said in a statement quoted by The Detroit News.

GM's ignition switches in the Chevrolet Cobalt and other models have been connected with at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes. Besides the 2.6 million vehicles recalled earlier, GM issued a recall this week for nearly 3.4 million cars for a similar ignition switch problem. The two switches are different but come from the same designer.  

Fiat Chrysler's potentially faulty switches may mirror a 2011 recall involving the 2010 Dodge Journey, Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country models. The vehicles were recalled because the key could be accidentally bumped from the "run" position to the "accessory" position.

According to the NHTSA, Fiat Chrysler owners have reported "that the MY 2008-2009 vehicles may have a similar defect as the MY 2010 vehicles. In addition, some MY 2010 owners have reported that they have experienced the defect condition after the recall remedy was applied."

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