• Feb 26th 2014 at 5:00AM
  • 135
Did GM Know About Faulty Switch 10 Years Ago?

Amid a rising death toll, General Motors announced Tuesday it would expand an ongoing recall associated with a defective ignition switch to include 1,367,146 cars in North America.

GM said in a written statement it now knows of 13 deaths and 31 crashes linked to the defect, in which the ignition switch inadvertently moves to the "off" position and turns off the engine. Many electrical components in vehicles then wouldn't work, including airbags, which wouldn't deploy in crashes.

When the Detroit-based automaker first announced last month that it would recall more than a half-million Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5 vehicles, it said it knew of six deaths and 22 crashes related to the problem, which is exacerbated by heavy keychains that tug the switch out of position.

Four vehicles added to the recall Tuesday include: Saturn Ions manufactured between 2003 and 2007, and models of the Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky made in the 2006 and 2007 model years.

In a written statement, General Motors acknowledged it had known about the issue for a decade, yet did not issue a related recall until February.

"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 written 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."

A company spokesperson did not return a phone call late Tuesday afternoon, and it was unclear why the company recalled some models and not others last month.

GM said it is working with suppliers to expedite the shipment of replacement parts. Car owners will be notified via mail if their vehicle is covered by the recall. Until the cars are fixed, GM says drivers should place nothing else on their keychains.

Industry analysts say the deadly problem and delayed response is reminiscent of Toyota's handling its problem with cars that suddenly accelerated.

'If GM can take any learning from Toyota, it would be to expect short-term repercussion in the form of lost consumer confidence, and declines in perceived quality and safety," said Arthur Henry, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Toyota has shown that a brand can recover from an incident like this, and what may help GM is the fact the majority of the models recalled are discontinued. This may dissolve any negative projection toward its new products."



Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.


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  • 135 Comments
      nedsabbagh
      • 1 Year Ago
      I had a 99 Corvette and at least 6 times the steering wheel would lock when the car was running. I had it fixed multiple times and at my own expense. GM never did a thing for me. I was lucky it never happened when the car was moving. Never buy from GM again.
      • 1 Year Ago
      As an ex-salary GM retiree I want to THANK GM for sending my pension to Prudential. I feel one hell of a lot secure financially then I ever did with you. This recall and your 400,000 UAW bed buddies is surely, one day, going to put you right back where the old GM ended up. At that point we, ex-salary, could give a **** less. Your constant "bending" over every time the UAW "demands" something from you and you give it is pathetic. You'll never learn. That's why I have stock in Ford.
      gmgpjandon
      • 1 Year Ago
      In other words, some desk jockey effed up. Love the web but sure get tired of reading bs speak.
      gudtip
      • 1 Year Ago
      sue, sue, sue, and keep sueing
      Mike
      • 1 Year Ago
      They say todays GM is doing business differently.....HaHaHa! Dream on. Mary Barra was an Engineering executive during this time. Same GM same players run the ship.
      rgkarasiewicz
      • 1 Year Ago
      If GM had installed a quality ignition switch to begin with, they wouldn't have such problems.
      • 1 Year Ago
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      phd
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is gonna cost ObamaMotors, formerly known as General Motor a lot of federal money.... Seems they never reimbursed some shareholders for the devaluation of their stock when the government and the UAW took it over. Oh, well, we are sure Obama's selection for the ObamaMotors CEO will be asking for yet another bailout...
        normde
        • 1 Year Ago
        @phd
        Uh, that was George Bush's bailout dude. Check your facts.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have an Impala SS and I LOVE the car....but, many people complain about Chevy cars....???
      Luke Flynn
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM has not and will not recall 2007 Chevrolet Avalanches for over oil consumption. It has been shown and proven that GM produced Avalanche engines with defective valve stems, in their 2007 models, that allow oil to seep past due to nicks in the defective valve stems. Most owners are reporting that they use a qt of oil every fill up or every other fill up due to this imperfection in the engine. GM refuses to fix the problem and calls the oil usage "normal". I unfortunately own one of these automobiles and have experienced this problem with mine since it was new. I am not only done with Chevrolet but I am done with GM cars of any make. Next time I will be taking my hard earned money else where.
        mseeney328
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Luke Flynn
        Hey Luke, GM told me that the intake gasket on my old Express 3500 " intake leakage is a known problem with these 5.7 engines." They would not replace it for free,or even prorate the cost of replacement because it had over 100,000 miles, I bought it new from GM. They told me it would cost a minimum of $650 bucks to replace it.I walked away in disbelief.It's a known problem and would not even prorate the cost to fix.Did they design this gasket to last just over 100,000 miles when it's out of warranty?I took the intake and all of it's ancillaries off the top of the engine,and replaced the gasket.If I remember the gasket cost me less than 60 dollars.I did fix the problem.I thought the 350 chevy engine was GMs claim to fame. They have been making that motor a long time.I have some news for you GM.You haven't got it right yet. Luke that engine used alot of oil also.It was a 2008. About a quart every 1000 miles. That cannot be acceptable.
      greenliks
      • 1 Year Ago
      They should recall all the chevy caviliers also. I've had problems with that ABS BS lights for years, even after redoing the brake pads and rotors. My keychain contains only remote starter and 2 keys weighing less than 2 ounces. Way to go again china motors.
      rosspoling
      • 1 Year Ago
      I hope the Feds and GM pay out big money for trying to cover up a major problems with GM. Then maybe they both will learn from there mistakes not to do it again.
        denistl
        • 1 Year Ago
        @rosspoling
        If you read the article it said GM knew about the problem for 10 years. Thats 4 years before Gov't intervention.Furthermore if the Feds had to pay out anything, who exactly do you think the Feds are? Hint,it's you and me. And as far as learning from their mistakes, GM has been making these mistakes for the last 50 years, so I don't expect anything to change
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