In a long line of automakers pulling vehicles off the market, Mazda will be recalling more than one million vehicles in the U.S. over an ignition fire risk.

After General Motors (GM) finally acknowledged last year that it kept quiet about a deadly defect under the rug for a decade, despite the fact that it affected millions of cars, auto safety has become a highly controversial and sensitive topic. GM stirred a firestorm with that disclosure and left all other automakers scrambling to fix any potential defects that could lead to safety hazards.

Mazda is now the latest carmaker to join the recall party and its affected models cover even cars launched more than two decades ago.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed (PDF) that an ignition issue potentially affects 1.368 million older vehicles Mazda sold in the U.S. The vehicles date all the way back to the late '80s and a potential short circuit in their ignition switch could cause a fire. Mazda confirmed the figures in a press release a few days ago.

Over time, grease accumulates around the contact points of the ignition switch and can eventually cause a short circuit, which in turn can cause the ignition switch to burst into flames.

"Due to an excessive amount of grease at the contact points inside the ignition switch during production, as a result of time and use, the grease may carbonize and accumulate between the contact points, reducing the electrical insulation performance inside the switch," Mazda explained in a press release on Oct. 21. "As a result, continuous use may lead the contact points of the thermal base of the switch to become conductive, which may overheat the switch. Should this occur, the resulting effect is smoke from the switch, and, in the worst case, a fire."

The automaker further notes that no reports of injuries or accidents have surfaced so far in relation to this issue and this potential fault doesn't directly affect the operation or drivability once the car is running. The situation doesn't affect the operation of any safety features or devices in the vehicle either, Mazda adds.

The documents from the NHTSA, however, suggest that a 2002 fire involving a Mazda vehicle in Japan could be related to this ignition switch fault.

The recall will kick off this December and will affect the following vehicle models:

• Mazda MPV models from 1989 to 1998

• Mazda 323 models from 1990 to 1995

• Mazda Protégé models from 1990 to 1998

• Mazda MX-3 models from 1992 to 1993

• Mazda 929 models from 1993 to 1995

• Mazda MX-6 models from 1993 to 1997

• Mazda 626 models from 1993 to 1998

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