U.S. ignition-switch investigation extended to Chrysler

Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:28pm EDT
 
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By Bernie Woodall and Marilyn W. Thompson

DETROIT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators are investigating about 1.2 million Chrysler vehicles for potential ignition-switch problems, expanding a probe beyond General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) to another Detroit automaker.

Chrysler is the subject of two investigations involving possible nondeployment of air bags because of potentially defective switches that can be turned off in older Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler models, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. No deaths or injuries have been reported, NHTSA said.

NHTSA, which administers safety recalls, continues to investigate similar issues at GM, which this year has recalled more than 20 million vehicles worldwide, including 6.5 million for switch-related issues that could disable air bags in crashes.

The new Chrysler investigations suggest that issues with faulty ignition switches that could cause air bags to fail may be more widespread than once believed and eventually could touch other vehicle manufacturers besides GM and Chrysler.

The safety agency on Wednesday said the Chrysler probes resulted from NHTSA's recent "communication with automotive manufacturers and suppliers regarding airbag design and performance related to the position of the vehicle ignition switch."

It added: "As part of NHTSA’s broader efforts to evaluate this issue, the agency examined all major manufacturers’ airbag deployment strategies as they relate to switch position."

NHTSA's acting administrator, David Friedman, earlier this year told lawmakers that, prior to GM's recall of the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, the agency did not fully understand the link between the cars' ignition switch and the ability of the air bags to deploy in a crash.

NHTSA said it had received complaints of engine stalling in the Chrysler models, but was not aware of any incidents where the air bags did not deploy.   Continued...

 
A Chrysler logo is pictured at the Jacob Javits Convention Center during the New York International Auto Show in New York April 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri