General Motors isn't the only automaker watching its recall count rise fast, with Chrysler saying it will also take action to fix nearly 700,000 faulty minivans and SUVs.
In fact, the problem at the smaller maker is one GM is quite familiar with. Chrysler says the vehicles are equipped with faulty ignition switches that could inadvertently switch from the On to Accessory position, potentially leading to a crash while also disabling the vehicles' airbags.
The announcement helped push the U.S. auto industry to an all-time record for recalls — and after just six months. It also marked one of the busiest months for recalls in automotive history. GM alone staged 24 recalls in June, impacting a total of nearly 12 million cars, trucks and crossovers in the U.S. and over a million more abroad.
The latest GM and Chrysler announcements came the same day the bigger maker revealed details of its new victims' compensation fund to cover those killed or injured due to the ignition switch problem first ordered in February. Chrysler followed with its own ignition switch announcement in March, a move covering 196,000 Dodge Journeys and Caravans and Chrysler Town & Country models.
The latest Chrysler recall covers the same three models from the 2007 to 2009 model years. The majority of the 696,000 vehicles were sold in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it is continuing to look into the problem, however, and may take further "appropriate action based on its findings." NHTSA has been looking at a broader range of ignition switch-related problems.
There appear to be two distinct issues. In the case of the original GM recall, the switches themselves were defective, and unable to hold a key in the On position in some situations, such as when the vehicle was jounced on a rough road. The ignition switch problem GM announced on Monday covering models such as the 1997 to 2005 Chevrolet Malibu involve badly designed keys with small, round holes for key rings, rather than slots. That makes it easier for a knee to nudge the key out of position, or for the key to be jostled when there's a lot of weight on the ring.
In the case of the latest Chrysler recall, the maker said it knows of two crashes caused by the problem — which can shut down the engine and disable power brakes and steering, as well as the airbags — but it knows of no injuries or fatalities.
Ignition switch-related problems have been one of the biggest issues during a year when a total of more than 39 million vehicles were already recalled by the end of June — breaking the previous, all-time record of 33.01 million set in 2004.
But there have been other recurring issues, notably one involving faulty airbags. Barely a week ago, Nissan, Honda and Mazda had to take action to deal with faulty bags provided by the Japanese parts manufacturer Takata — a defect that impacted millions of Toyota airbags earlier in the month.
That supplier has had a number of problems in recent years, including the conviction of four executives on charges of bid-rigging and price-fixing in 2013. A separate Takata problem last week forced GM to initially stop the sale of same late-model Chevy Cruze sedans, following up with a recall.
Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas, Ford Motor Co., told TheDetroitBureau.com last week there are "unique circumstances going on in the industry" right now leading to the flood of new recalls. The industry is clearly more sensitive to issues that might, in the past, have been dealt with in less aggressive manner, often through Technical Service Bulletins advising dealer service staff to make repairs on a one-by-one basis for customers having a problem.