General Motors has announced a massive expansion of a 778,000-unit recall we told you about two weeks ago, doubling not only the total number of cars affected but expanding the recall beyond Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models previously mentioned. The recall originally centered around ignition switches that could slip out of the "run" position if jostled or if any weight was applied to the key in the cylinder.
The recall has swollen to over 1.3-million units, and where before it was limited to vehicles built between 2005 and 2007, it now includes vehicles screwed together in 2003 and 2004, as well. Saturn Ion coupes and sedans built between 2003 and 2007, Chevrolet HHR vanlets built between 2006 and 2007 and the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters from 2006 and 2007 are now all included in the recall.
At the same time, the number of accidents being attributed to the faulty ignition switches has grown, as well. Thirteen fatalities in 31 accidents are being blamed on vehicles that switched out of the "run" position without warning, a situation that prevented airbags from deploying. That's up from the original report's 6 deaths and 22 accidents.
GM has begun the intensive process of informing owners of the affected vehicles, and according to its press release, available below, it will not limit its efforts to written notifications. In addition to letters, it will reach out via social media and its customer care centers. Owners of affected vehicles are being asked to report to dealers for the installation of a new ignition switch. Those that are delayed in getting the repair should remove any weights, such as keyrings, from their ignition key.
Finally, GM is taking the blame for its lack of oversight, after it was revealed in court depositions that the Detroit-based manufacturer knew about the bad ignition switches while the affected models were still new, by submitting a chronology of events to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
"The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been," Alan Batey, GM's North American president, said in a statement. "Today's GM is committed to doing business differently and better. We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward."
It would appear that GM has just opened up itself to a great deal of liability and lawsuit potential – we're looking into the potential ramifications of this admission and recall expansion, and we'll get back to you when we know more. For now, take a look at the full press release from GM below.
Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Ion and Sky included
Company Launches Process Review
DETROIT – General Motors is expanding the recall of certain 2003-2007 model year vehicles to correct a condition with the ignition switch that may allow the key to unintentionally move or switch to the "accessory" or "off" position, turning off the engine and most of the electrical components on the vehicle.
In addition to 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada only, GM is separately recalling 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky models. The affected U.S. vehicle population, including those vehicles recalled Feb. 13, totals 1,367,146.
This expanded vehicle population raises the number of reported incidents involving frontal crashes, in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the non-deployment of the frontal airbags, to 31 involving 13 front-seat fatalities.
As part of the recall, GM is taking steps to address customer concerns and working with its suppliers to increase parts production and accelerate availability.
GM will notify all affected customers that in addition to recalling their vehicles and performing repairs at no charge to them, GM and its dealers will work with customers on an individual, case-by-case basis to minimize inconvenience associated with the recall.
"Ensuring our customers' safety is our first order of business," said GM North America President Alan Batey. "We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can."
Going beyond required written notification, GM, through its customer care centers and social media teams, is using customer records and communications channels to notify affected customers of the recall and additional actions the company is willing to take to relieve their concerns and minimize inconvenience.
GM is recalling these vehicles because the ignition switch torque performance may not meet GM specifications. If the torque performance is not to specification, and the key ring is carrying added weight or the vehicle goes off road or experiences some other jarring event, the ignition switch may inadvertently be moved out of the "run" position.
The timing of the key movement out of the "run" position, relative to the activation of the sensing algorithm of the crash event, may result in the airbags not deploying, increasing the potential for occupant injury in certain kinds of crashes.
Dealers will replace the ignition switch to prevent the unintentional or inadvertent key movement. Until this correction is performed, customers should use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring. As always, customers should drive responsibly and use their safety belts.
On Monday, the company submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration a detailed chronology associated with its initial recall of the ignition switch torque performance condition in Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s and Pursuits. The chronology outlines events that happened during the time that elapsed between receiving the first field reports and issuing a recall.
"The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been," said Batey. "Today's GM is committed to doing business differently and better. We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward."
About General Motors Co.
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.