The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday it’s investigating whether certain Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep models contain a defect that could force the ignition key out of the run position, disabling airbags and causing a loss of power steering and brakes.
The safety watchdog agency made the announcement on the same day General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) CEO Mary Barra faced House lawmakers over her company’s handling of a similar problem that led to a recall of millions of GM cars, and killed at least 13 people in 53 accidents.
The NHTSA opened two investigations involving almost 700,000 Chrysler Town & Country minivans, Dodge Grand Caravan minivans and Dodge Journey crossover SUVs from model years 2008 to 2010, and 525,000 Jeep Commanders and Jeep Cherokees from model years 2006 and 2007.
The first investigation (pdf) involves whether a 2011 Chrysler recall was extensive enough. Chrysler said at the time the problem only affected 2010 models of the Dodge and Chrysler vehicles, but the NHTSA says it has reports from consumers that say 2008 and 2009 models were also affected.
Chrysler initially said it found that the ignition key could easily slip into to the “accessory” position if the key wasn’t fully locked into the “on” position. Hitting a bump on a road could then cause the key to slip back to the “accessory” position, shutting the car down in motion.
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The second investigation (pdf) involving the Jeeps has come after consumer complaints that the ignition switch can easily bump from “on” to “accessory” when drivers knees bump the key and the attached fob.
On Friday GM said it would recall 2010 to 2014 Chevy Camaros for the same issue.
GM says fixing the Camaro problem involves issuing new ignition keys with separate fobs and is less of a problem than the more contrversial igntion switch flaw affecting 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other older GM cars.