Thanks to GM, Fiat Chrysler Is Facing an Ignition Recall

The Feds are investigating ignition-switch problems in Chrysler's minivans and Jeeps. Is Chrysler about to join the 2014 recall circus?

Jun 23, 2014 at 1:31PM

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The now-discontinued Jeep Commander is one of several Chrysler products under investigation for ignition-switch issues. Source: Fiat Chrysler

It has been quite a year for automaker recalls. So far in 2014, General Motors (NYSE:GM) alone has recalled over 20 million vehicles in North America -- thanks to the fallout from a long-delayed recall of a defective ignition swtich blamed for over a dozen deaths.

It isn't just a GM thing, though -- all automakers are coming under much closer scrutiny from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which some have accused of lapses with GM. Ford (NYSE:F) added $400 million to its "warranty reserve" in the first quarter, likely in anticipation of increased pressure to recall vehicles, and Ford, Toyota (NYSE:T), and others have each issued several large recalls of their own in 2014.

Now it may be Fiat Chrysler's (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) turn. As Motley Fool senior auto specialist John Rosevear explains in this video, the NHTSA -- surely sparked by the GM example -- is looking into a potential problem with over a million Chryslers, Dodges, and Jeeps, a problem that will seem remarkably familiar to those who have followed the GM recall saga.

A transcript of the video is below.

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John Rosevear: Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear, senior auto specialist for Fool.com. We've heard an awful lot about General Motors and ignition switches and recalls in the last few months, some of you have told me that you've heard too much.

Okay, here's a story that involves ignition switches and recalls, but this time it's at Chrysler. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said this past Wednesday that it is opening investigations into 1.2 million vehicles made by Chrysler because of reports that the ignition switches could get knocked out of the "run" position and cause the vehicle to stall.

The danger is what we've seen in some of the accidents involving the defective General Motors cars, if the ignition switch isn't in the run position when the car gets hit, the airbags don't deploy. So you can see what they're worried about, you knock the key while you're driving with your knee or maybe you hit a bump on the highway or in an intersection or something, the car abruptly stalls, somebody crashes into you, and your airbags don't go off. 

A report in the Detroit News said that Chrysler has received "hundreds" of complaints about vehicles stalling because of the issue, but to be clear here there are no reports of injuries or fatalities that are linked to air bags not deploying.

There are actually two separate investigations here, one is of Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans as well as the Dodge Journey crossover, vehicles made between 2008 and 2010, where they say that a rough road or a sharp bump could cause the ignition to turn from "run" mode to "accessory" mode, which shuts the engine down. Then there's a separate investigation, which is with Jeep Commanders and Jeep Grand Cherokes made between 2005 and 2007, where the driver's knee can bump the key fob or key chain and turn the ignition off.

This is basically the same issue that led GM to recall a whole bunch of Camaros last week, because the new Camaros have these big key fobs that apparently are big enough that a driver's knee can bump them, and then GM recalled a lot more vehicles on Monday, 3.16 million, to modify the keys to make it so that you can't hang too many things on your key, because the momentum of the weight on the key could cause it to turn the ignition while you're driving, so GM is going to modify the keys so that they have only a little hole for the keyring instead of a larger slot.

It's getting to the point where it all sounds silly, but the Feds are apparently really concerned about this, it makes me wonder if they're going to end up requiring all of our new cars to have keyless start, with the key fob in your pocket and a start button on the dash. But one thing is clear, and that's that our big season of recalls in the United States is still in full swing. Thanks for watching.

John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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