Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is recalling 703,000 vehicles for a second time after previous failed attempts to fix an ignition key rotation problem similar to one affecting millions of General Motors cars. The recall covers 2008-10 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans and Dodge Journey crossovers, a document posted Friday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), says.
The defective ignition switch can inadvertently slip from the “run” to “accessory” position while the vehicle is in motion, disabling power steering, power brakes, air bags and seat belt pretensioners, increasing the likelihood of an accident. Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) said it’s aware of only one accident and no injuries from the flaw, the situation has led to some harrowing consumer complaints.
“Last week, my car stopped in the middle of the street, almost killing my children and I,” said a consumer complaint filed with the NHTSA March 2 regarding a 2010 Dodge Journey. “When I reported this to Dodge, I was told that it had been recalled for an ignition issue [I was not aware of] and it had been repaired before I purchased it.”
This complaint underscores a particular problem for used-car buyers. FCA had recalled the vehicles in 2011 and 2014, but its repair didn’t work, according to an NHTSA investigation initiated last year. FCA had installed a trim ring, but NHTSA learned the repair didn’t fix the problem. People who bought the cars used are sometimes under the impression the vehicles have been fixed.
Now FCA is calling the cars back to take on a costlier repair of installing new wireless ignition modules.
The NHTSA investigation took place in the wake of the controversial General Motors ignition-switch recalls announced early last year that have been linked to at least 57 deaths and 104 injuries, including 10 serious, life-altering ones involving amputations, brain damage or paralysis.
GM has identified numerous reasons for ignition key rotation, including large key fobs that can be bumped out of “run” by drivers’ knees. But the most serious ignition-related defect is linked to a tiny spring inside the ignition switch that’s too weak to hold the key in the “run” position when the car hits bumps in the road or when the key is bumped accidentally by the driver.
FCA apparently attempted to bolster the sturdiness of the ignition key position with the trim ring, but is now completely replacing a component in affected vehicles, much like GM is doing with the recalls of older Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions by replacing the ignition switch inside the steering column.
Last year, manufacturers issued a record 803 automotive safety recalls affecting 62.9 million vehicles, according to NHTSA. Many vehicles were subjected to more than one recall.
Excluding the latest announcement, FCA has issued recalls affecting more than 1.28 million vehicles. Here are the FCA recalls since the start of the year, through March 5, a day before the latest FCA recall was announced by the NHTSA:
* More than 753,000 Jeep Liberty (2002-03), Jeep Grand Cherokee (2002-04) and Dodge Viper (2003-04) vehicles were recalled to fix an electrical problem that can cause air bags and/or seat belt pretensioners to deploy unexpectedly.
* More than 338,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee (2012-13) and Dodge Durango (2012-13) SUVs have been recalled to fix the totally integrated power module, which acts as the vehicle’s nerve center and fuse box. The flaw increases the risk of the vehicle stalling while in motion.
* More than 167,000 Jeep Cherokee SUVs (2014-15) were recalled for unintended side curtain or seat air bag deployment during vehicle operation.
* Nearly 26,000 2015 Chrysler 200 sedans have been recalled so far this year to fix a problem with the nine-speed automatic transmission. The car might not be in park even if the transmission lever is positioned accordingly to ensure the car doesn’t accidentally roll away.