Like GM, Chrysler Has a Scary Stalling Defect, but People Aren’t Nearly as Upset About It

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A blog about business and economics.
July 23 2014 1:14 PM

Chrysler Recalls Vehicles for Ignition Switch Defect

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Certain Jeep Grand Cherokees have been recalled by Chrysler for ignition switch defects.

Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Ignition switch defects are back, but this time at Chrysler instead of General Motors. Chrysler said on Tuesday that it would recall an undisclosed number of older Jeep Commander and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs "out of an abundance of caution" to investigate their ignition switch performance. The company estimated that the total vehicles affected could total up to 792,000 worldwide.

The concern for Chrysler, as with GM, is that unexpected impact on the keychain—a driver jiggling it by accident or the car hitting a bump on the road—could slide the ignition out of the "on" position and cause the vehicle to stall suddenly and the airbags to be disabled. But unlike GM, whose ignition switch troubles have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes, Chrysler said it knows of only one reported accident and no related injuries from its own defect.

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This isn't the first time that Chrysler has issued a recall for ignition switch–related problems. In 2011, it recalled nearly 200,000 minivans for a defect that led to stalling, and earlier this month it expanded that to 700,000 additional vehicles. So why hasn't Chrysler taken the same heat as GM? "Perhaps Chrysler was more willing to do the recalls," says Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. "Chrysler already did one recall on the ignition switch and did it voluntarily three years ago. It's not like they've been sitting on it for 10 years like GM." The most obvious explanation, of course, is that there haven't yet been any deaths associated with the Chrysler recalls. 

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

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