Chrysler recalls older Jeep Commanders and Grand Cherokees for ignition switch

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DETROIT -- Chrysler Group will recall as many as 792,300 2006-07 Jeep Commanders and 2005-06 Jeep Grand Cherokees globally to fix ignition switches that could be knocked out of the “on” position, causing a stall and possible loss of power to the airbags.

Engineers are still developing a fix, and the company says it is initiating a recall “out of an abundance of caution.”

The SUV recall is unrelated to an earlier recall involving 2009-10 Dodge Journeys, 2008-10 Dodge Grand Caravan and 2008-10 Chrysler Town & Country minivans for the same reason, a spokesman for Chrysler said today.

Ignition switches have been under heavy scrutiny throughout the auto industry this year in the wake of General Motors’ recall of 2.6 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths -- and a wave of lawsuits, investigations and congressional hearings. All told, GM has recalled a record 25.7 million vehicles in the United States this year.

The Jeep recall covers an estimated 650,000 Commanders and Grand Cherokee SUVs in the United States, and another 41,600 in Canada and Mexico and the remainder overseas. Chrysler said it knows of one accident and no injuries related to ignition switch issues with the Commander or Grand Cherokee.

Chrysler said its investigation “suggests an outside force, usually attributed to contact with the driver’s knee, may move ignition keys from the ‘on’ position.” The company said that the condition “may cause engine stall, reducing braking power and making steering more difficult. Safety features such as frontal airbags may also be disabled.”

The Commander is no longer produced, and the Grand Cherokee has since been redesigned and later versions are not subject to the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said earlier it had logged at least 32 complaints alleging that, while driving, a driver’s leg came in contact with the SUV’s key fob or key chain, causing the key to switch to the “off” or “accessory” position.

Chrysler is advising owners of the recalled Commanders and Grand Cherokees to ensure there is clearance between their knees and the keys. The company is also advising owners to remove all items from their key rings, leaving only their ignition keys.

Second recall

Chrysler also announced a second, smaller recall of 21,000 Ram 1500 pickups, Jeep Cherokees and Chrysler 200 sedans manufactured in late May and early June to inspect and replace their shocks and/or struts.

The vehicles were built using a shipment of shocks and struts that “do not meet the company’s quality standards, and may break free from their mounts, leading to possible loss of vehicle control,” Chrysler said.

The issue was spotted by a supplier, and the company said it was unaware of any reported accidents, injuries or complaints. All of the vehicles were built within a 16-day period before June 6, Chrysler said.

An estimated 14,300 vehicles are in the United States; 5,300 are in Canada; 160 are in Mexico; and 2,000 are outside the North American Free Trade Agreement region.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.

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