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Fiat Chrysler Recalls Almost 703,000 Vehicles for Defective Ignition Switches

March 9, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is again recalling nearly 703,000 SUVs and minivans due to defective ignition switches that can inadvertently shut off the engine.

According to the recall notice posted on Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the callback covers 2009 to 2010 Dodge Journey SUVs as well as 2008 to 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans.

Some of the aforementioned vehicles have been previously called back for the same problem. Fiat Chrysler tried to address the faulty ignition switch problem in recalls issued in 2011 and 2014. The automaker initially tried to remedy the issue with the addition of a trim ring, which was designed to prevent the key from inadvertently rotating. However, an NHTSA probe opened last year found that this remedy was insufficient.

This time, Fiat Chrysler is replacing the wireless ignition module in all recalled vehicles. The company said it expects to start the replacement for the 2008 to 2009 models in April and the 2010 models in August.

Fiat Chrysler’s ignition switch issue is similar to that of General Motors Co., which prompted a recall of 2.6 million small cars in 2014 and is linked to at least 57 fatalities. Fiat Chrysler knows of no fatalities related to this issue, but is aware of one crash that did not involve injuries.

The faulty ignition switch could inadvertently rotate into the off or accessory position. This movement shuts off the engine and results in the loss of power steering and power brakes. Moreover, it disables the airbags.

The NHTSA started an investigation into the aforementioned recalled Fiat Chrysler nameplates after the GM’s ignition switch problem came to light. The agency was particularly interested in how the safety defect affected airbag function. Fiat Chrysler found out that the airbags in the Journey, Grand Caravan and Town and Country vehicles still function if the ignition switch shifts to either the off or accessory position.

Federal regulators reviewed 24 consumer complaints in its probe into Fiat Chrysler’s vehicles. All reports recounted dangerous situations, some of which involved having young children inside the vehicle. Aside from power loss, complainants reported being unable to move the steering wheel. They also said dealers were unwilling to service their vehicles because the automaker has yet to issue a recall.

According to Fiat Chrysler, road conditions or a jarring event may cause the ignition switch to rotate out of position. The automaker advised owners of the recalled vehicles to remove all unnecessary items from the key ring until the vehicles have been serviced. Even the key fob should be removed—only the ignition key should be left.

Photo credit: order_242/ Flickr/ CC BY-SA

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