Chrysler Ignition Remedy Fails to Satisfy Air Bag Concern

Chrysler Group LLC expanded an ignition-switch recall to include 695,957 vehicles even as U.S. regulators said the company’s proposed fix may not be enough.

Chrysler is adding the 2009 Dodge Journey, as well as the the 2008-2009 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country, to a recall originally limited to the 2010 model year, according to a company statement yesterday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it’s still concerned the ignition fix won’t correct a defect that can prevent air bags from deploying.

“While Chrysler’s expanded recall addresses the agency’s concerns on vehicle scope, it does not address agency safety concerns regarding the effectiveness of the remedy,” NHTSA said in an e-mailed statement.

Vehicle ignitions are under increased scrutiny following General Motors Co. (GM)’s recall earlier this year of 2.59 million small cars with faults in that function that were linked to a least 13 deaths. Similar to GM, NHTSA is looking into complaints that drivers of the Chrysler vehicles have inadvertently hit the ignition key with their knees or legs, causing the switch to turn from the “on” to the “accessory” position.

This can cause the vehicles to stall, according to the complaints. NHTSA is investigating whether the air bags lose functionality when the switch changes positions.

Grand Cherokee

NHTSA is keeping its defect investigation for Chrysler open and sent a request for additional information on affected models, including the 2006-2007 Jeep Commander and the 2005-2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee. There were 32 incidents reported, 465 warranty claims and two rear-end collisions with no deaths or injuries, according to Chrysler.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Chrysler Group is expanding a previous recall to install a more robust wireless ignition node module detent ring,” Nick Cappa, a spokesman for the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company, said in an e-mailed statement.

Chrysler is owned by Fiat SpA. (F)

A previous recall in 2010 included 196,000 Town & Country, Grand Caravan and Journey vehicles, according to Chrysler.

The expanded recall includes 525,206 vehicles in the U.S., as well as 102,892 in Canada, 25,591 in Mexico and 42,268 outside North America, according to the Chrysler statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net Anne Reifenberg

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