Communications professionals know that the best time to release bad news about a company is at 5:15 pm on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend. By the time everyone comes back to work the following week, so much other stuff has happened that the story often gets lost in the shuffle. In the auto industry, another good time would be late in the evening just hours before a major overseas auto show while at the same time your biggest competitor is mired in a crisis of its own.
As many of the world's automotive journalists were converging in Switzerland for the Geneva Motor Show late Monday night, General Motors announced it would recall 1.3 million Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s built between 2005 and 2010. GM will replace the motors on their electric power assisted steering (EPAS). Over time the motors can reportedly fail and lead to a loss of steering assist.
When the EPAS fails, the result is similar to a belt breaking on a hydraulic power steering pump. The car is still drivable and controllable, but the steering effort at low speeds rises significantly, making it difficult to maneuver at parking lot speeds. At higher speeds, relatively little steering assist is needed and drivers should be able to make it safely to the side of the road if the warning lamp comes on.