July 25, 2014 at 11:53 am

NHTSA opens new Chrysler, Hyundai, Isuzu defect probes

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it is opening new safety investigations into reported defects in Chrysler Group LLC Dodge Chargers, Hyundai Motor Co. Sonatas and Isuzu trucks.

Also Friday, Mazda Motor Co. said it was expanding a 2013 recall for air bag issues by another 18,000 cars — the 2003-04 Mazda6 and 2004 RX-8 vehicles. Seven major automakers worldwide have recalled more than 10 million vehicles linked to the same defective air bags made by Takakta.

NHTSA said it has launched a preliminary investigation into 394,000 2006-08 Hyundai Sonatas for air bag issues after receiving 83 complaints that seat belt buckles failed and needed to be repaired or replaced. The agency said electrical circuits or sensors inside the seat belt buckle may fail and cause the pretensioner to malfunction. Depending on the air bag deployment software, the air bag may not deploy as designed or may not deploy at all.

Hyundai spokesman Jim Trainor said the company is cooperating.

The safety agency also is investigating 123,000 2011-212 Dodge Charger cars for stalling issues after 14 complaints that the alternator failed while driving, causing the engine to stall and not restart. Half of the complaints occurred while driving above 40 miles per hour. One complaint said the vehicle stalled in traffic and smake came incident from the alternator.

Chrysler said in a statement that “customer safety is paramount” and it “is cooperating fully with this investigation.”

NHTSA also said it is investigating 13,000 2013 Isuzu N-series trucks for faulty brake lights after just two complaints. NHTSA investigators spoke to several technicians who said they have fixed the problem in other trucks. In both complaints, technicians reported cut or broken wires at a wire harness connector.

NHTSA typically spends six months or so before it decides whether to upgrade an issue to an engineering analysis. After that is complete, it can formally demand an automaker recall vehicles it deems pose an unreasonable risk to safety.

DShepardson@detroitnews.com