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GM Ignition Switch Recall

May 15, 2014

Some readers are seeing this news for the first time. Many news journalists have lightly touched on this recall or not at all. Meanwhile, others covering the development have accused GM of a cover-up larger than the Toyota 'sudden acceleration' recall.

The problem is a faulty ignition switch causing some GM vehicles to lose power, resulting in accidents where the air bags would not deploy in frontal crashes. Thirteen deaths are linked to the issue.

David Shepardson and Melissa Burden in a Detroit News article wrote:

Clarence Ditlow, head of the Center for Auto Safety, said GM's apology was unusal. "General Motors made a terrible mistake when it failed to recall these vehicles in 2006 when it knew exactly what the problem was and how to fix it. At least 13 people have died as a result of air bags failing to deploy in the cars covered by the expanded recall. By apologizing the company is hoping to avoid criminal penalties under the Safety Act and only being fined $35 million, which is the maximum civil penalty," he said.

The problem isn't new by any means. GM learned of the problem in 2004 after receiving a report that an ignition key slipped out of place in a 2005 Cobalt causing the car to lose power. According to the Detroit News article GM replicated the problem in testing, but opted not to fix it "after consideration of the lead time required, cost and effectiveness of each of the solutions," according to documents GM submitted to NHTSA.

A 2005 report shows more problems and GM approving a redesign of the ignition key head and later cancelling it.

The initial recall said about 780,000 vehicles would be involved but less than two weeks later GM raised the number to more than 1.6 million cars worldwide. About 1.3 million of the vehicles listed were sold in the U.S.

The vehicles that will be recalled:

  • 2003-07 Saturn Ion
  • 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2007 Pontiac G5
  • 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2007 Saturn Sky

Last week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded General Motors Co. turn over all information about its handling of the recall. Additionally, NHTSA sent a detailed 27 page list of 107 questions to GM. This week congress announced a hearing will be scheduled in April.

Parts necessary to repair the affected vehicles will be available in April. Meanwhile, drivers are being told by GM and NHTSA officials to remove everything from their key rings except the igniton key until repairs are made.

When GM first reported the number of deaths linked to faulty ignition switches the total was 13. Soon thereafter GM reported that the number was 12 as a result of a duplication of one accident.

The following two paragraphs are from a recent LA Times article:

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Center for Auto Safety on Thursday cited raw data pulled from accident reports connected to two of the six models GM has recalled.

The data cited by the center’s letter was analyzed by Friedman Research Corp., which evaluates vehicle design and safety, by looking at NHTSA’s database of fatal crashes involving the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and the 2003-07 Saturn Ion in which the air bags did not deploy, Friedman determined that 303 people in the driver’s seat or front passenger seat were killed.

GM has amassed more than 2 million documents totaling more than 6 million pages as part of its internal investigation which would indicate a decision from NHTSA will not be forthcoming in the near future.

If the actual cost of repair for the faulty switch (not labor) was 57 cents per car according to the Center for Auto Safety, this can result in one of the largest cover-ups in the auto industry.