General Motors' ignition switch problem goes back even farther than first imagined. In a statement that the automaker submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it said that it found a case of the faulty ignition switch going back to 2001 in a pre-production Saturn Ion (pictured above). Previously, the earliest known affected vehicles were from 2004.

NHTSA received the GM letter on March 11, and it came as part of the timeline it released to explain the widened recall. The report includes a case of a pre-production Ion where engineers found a problem with the ignition switch's "passlock" system. The engineers diagnosed it as "low detent plunger force," and a design change fixed the issue.

The same report documents a case in 2003 where a service technician was driving an Ion, and the car stalled. The mechanic said: "'[t]he owner had several keys on the key ring,' and stated that '[t]he additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch,'" according to the letter. The worker replaced the vehicle's ignition switch.

GM said that it received customer complaints to its warranty and technical assistance offices around this time of customers not being able to start their vehicles, and some of these included reports of stalling.

For the Ion alone, GM says in the new report that it has found eight frontal crashes of 2003-2007 models where the ignition switch fault may have played a role. Among these accidents, there were four fatalities and six injuries. It also has evidence of three frontal impacts of 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs where the switch might have been responsible, and they resulted in three injuries.

This latest letter to NHTSA comes in addition to the 107 questions the automaker has to answer for the regulator by April 7. The company is also facing a hearing before the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, but a date hasn't been set yet. The entire 10-page letter can be viewed as a PDF here. Much of the new information comes on page nine.


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  • 51 Comments
      kmac1036
      • 1 Year Ago
      guess it's a good thing they're going to push button start
      SpikedLemon
      • 1 Year Ago
      What shared components are on that 2001 pre-production model with other models? The Delta platform didn't get released until 2003 MY (replacing the J/T-body). GM has a good sized parts bin - is the ignition from a 2001 pre-production ION (Delta) the same as that used on the Chevy Cavalier/Sunfire (J-body)? If so: this is a VERY large recall indeed.
      NickL
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm glad you included cadillac because I was really worried that you had forgotten about them
      carguy1701
      • 1 Year Ago
      Somebody is gonna get blacklisted for this, I'm sure of it. That said, they're being raked over the coals, as they should be.
      bubba_roe
      • 1 Year Ago
      GM builds crap, its no secret. My first 2 GM vehicles will be my last 2 GM vehicles. The amount of stuff that just falls apart on their products is rediculious.
        rlog100
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bubba_roe
        Can Name the model and year by chance?
        redgpgtp97
        • 1 Year Ago
        @bubba_roe
        Name a vehicle that has a spotless repair record? ..............uhm I'm waiting?
      EvilMustang
      • 1 Year Ago
      Am I the only one that thinks the recalls are getting out of hand? What's next.. issue a recall because tires wear too prematurely on a race car?
      NightFlight
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is the type of crap that keeps me from EVER trusting or buying a GM product, that includes Cadillac.
      WHO
      • 1 Year Ago
      How bad are GM cars. If they can't even design a car to hold two keys on a ring, how bad are other critical components that have not been uncovered as known defects?
        Teleny411
        • 1 Year Ago
        @WHO
        My mom's last GM had permanent electrical problems that the dealer couldn't fix (probably because it needed a new wiring harness and other components). Try telling a senior citizen that her brake light coming on constantly doesn't mean her brakes aren't failing. She got rid of that heap and has had a Honda for years with not a single issue,
      flc
      • 1 Year Ago
      If you like your craptacular GM car from old GM... You can keep your craptacular new GM car from the new GM....period....
      WHO
      • 1 Year Ago
      EVERY Penny lost on trying to save this corrupt company must be repaid to the Government. Sell off what is left to the highest bidders. Time for this evil corporation to be exterminated.
        rlog100
        • 1 Year Ago
        @WHO
        You will collect more taxes from its employees, supplier's and supplier employees in a year than you would get for selling their assets.
      Luke
      • 1 Year Ago
      How deep does this rabbit hole go...? GM really got caught with their proverbial pants down here....
        That Guy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Luke
        No they didn't. If morons didn't have tons of crap hanging off their ignition, this wouldn't have happened. You can't blame stupidity of drivers on GM
          Arizonarelax
          • 1 Year Ago
          @That Guy
          Really - blame the consumer? Just curious during this long time-frame in which GM knew about this issue, was such a bulletin / notification sent to all those consumers who owned GM inflected with this cover-up? Did GM enforce this warning of too many keys on the key-ring through their vast network of dealers? Was notification issued as a warning in GM's manuals after 2001? How many GM service advisor noted on their service work-orders that the consumer had too many keys for GM ignition switched to work properly? Can you show me this documentation? And if you are blaming the consumers, shouldn't you also blame manufacturers of "key-rings" which allow more than one key to be attached? Should you also blame the manufacturers of material which keys are made of for being "too-heavy" ? Lives were lost. Place that as your foremost thought. I doubt those that died were morons nor the families they left in trusting GM to build a quality vehicle - not to bid to the cheapest vendor.
          EXP Jawa
          • 1 Year Ago
          @That Guy
          You can't expect Matt to be rational, it isn't his forte and he just likes being That Guy too much. Honestly, if folks designing the ignition lock haven't accounted for having a couple of extra keys on the key ring, they're doing it wrong. There have been accounts of this issue occurring with only one or two keys extra. That's just poor design practice.
          WHO
          • 1 Year Ago
          @That Guy
          So THAT GUY, you are saying GM is not able to engineer an ignition switch capable of holding two keys on a ring. Seems all other companies are capable of doing so!
      flc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Well, I guess the resale value of GM cars just went further down. Not that their resale value was good to begin with!
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