VW issues new recall for 20,000 Chrysler-built minivans

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Volkswagen AG said Thursday it is issuing a new recall for 20,676 minivans for ignition switch issues that could cause the air bags to fail to deploy in a crash.

The German automaker said it is issuing a new recall for 20,000 Routan 2009-10 minivans built for it by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV because road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position, turning off the engine. That would depower various key safety systems including air bags, power steering, and power braking.

VW said owners should remove all items from their key rings, leaving only the ignition key. The key fob should also be removed from the key ring.

Minivans recalled last year that received an ignition switch module replacement will not be re-recalled, but owners of vehicles that received a trim ring will get a new module and keys.

In March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was closing its investigation into the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's recall of 702,000 2008-10 minivans after the automaker switched suppliers to replace ignition switches.

The decision comes after Fiat Chrysler told the agency in February it will replace Continental ignition-switch modules, along with the key fobs, with Marquardt modules.

VW said in a filing with NHTSA that it had been pushing for more information from Chrysler and learned of the new recall procedures “via a news report and through various media outlets and contacted Chrysler for additional information.” Fiat Chrysler notified VW of the parts supply and build more than a week later.

In June, Fiat Chrysler said it would will expand a 2011 recall to cover the 2009 Dodge Journey and 2008-09 Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country. It said the key could inadvertently move from "run" to "accessory." The initial recall covered just the 2010 models.

The automaker warned owners that until the recall was completed, they should remove all items from their key rings, leaving only the ignition key. The key fob should also be removed from the key ring. Chrysler told NHTSA it didn't have a fix in 2014 for the new recall.

Chrysler said it plans to launch the new recall repair remedy in April for the 2008-09 Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Journey and in August for the 2010 Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Journey.

The 2009 Routan will be fixed starting this month and the 2010 Routan starting in August.

Chrysler engineers spent months looking at different possible fixes. Fiat Chrysler said it was looking at alternative detent ring designs and possible software enhancements to improve the current detent ring's performance. In November, Chrysler concluded that it would take less time to replace the ignition-switch modules with a different design.

NHTSA said in spring last year it began talking to automakers regarding ignition key position and its effect on air bag system availability after General Motors Co.'s recall of 2.6 million vehicles for ignition problems now linked to at least 84 deaths.

During discussions held in April, Chrysler advised NHTSA that Chrysler air bag systems of this vintage, including those in the nonrecalled vehicles, revert to energy reserve when the ignition key moves to the "accessory" or "off" position and that under energy reserve, the air bags would be available for only a short period — about two-tenths of a second.

NHTSA's review of its consumer database conducted after the April discussions identified complaints alleging that model-year 2008-09 vehicles may have a similar defect as the 2010 vehicles and that some 2010 consumers reported experiencing ignition key position concerns after the recall remedy was applied, which prompted NHTSA's formal investigation.

Chrysler said the 2008-09 vehicles used the same design ignition switch module as the initially recalled vehicles, and found 66 consumer reports and one non-injury crash incident potentially related to inadvertent ignition key rotation.

Chrysler's review of the 2010 remedy — which involved installation of a "trim ring" instead of replacing the ignition switch — showed the remedy did not adequately address ignition key position concerns, and in some cases could cause other systems to operate improperly, including radio and instrument panel lighting, NHTSA said.

The automaker disclosed that on June 17, NHTSA asked the automaker in a phone call to recall the 2008-09 vehicles. Chrysler subsequently added the additional vehicles and said that the complete ignition switch module would be replaced with a new design component in all recalled vehicles, including those that were under the 2011 recall.