General Motors may be staring down another recall campaign for one of its models already embroiled in its high-profile ignition recall. The 2003-2007 Saturn Ion is already among the 1.6-million vehicles being recalled for faulty ignition switches, and now new light is being shed on a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation over 2004-2007 models centering on a loss of power steering.

The government safety regulator has received 846 complaints about the problem and claims that GM has had 3,489 reports of failure. Of those cases, there have been 16 accidents and 2 injuries reported, according to Automotive News. While NHTSA has been conducting an investigation since September 2011, no recall has been issued yet.

The inquiry's length was brought to light by an organization called the National Legal and Policy Center that alleges GM and NHTSA have known about the problem but are delaying a recall. It has sent a letter to CEO Mary Barra asking "to recall Saturn Ions for the model years 2004 through 2007 without further delay." The letter in question is available in full on the group's website.

GM previously recalled roughly 1.05-million Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models due to a defect in the electric power steering assist motor. It found that a buildup of brush debris and oily material could cause the part to stop working. NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation says that it was able to duplicate the same failure in the Ion, which is a related model. The automaker issued a service bulletin in June 2012 for the Saturn adding a 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty on the motor, and if it failed it would be replaced at no charge. NHTSA's investigation report can be read below, and the service bulletin can be read here as a PDF. We've reached out to the parties involved for further details and comment, and we'll update this story when we hear back.
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Date Investigation Opened: SEP 29, 2011
Date Investigation Closed: Open

NHTSA Action Number: EA11014

Component(s): STEERING

All Products Associated with this Investigation Vehicle Make Model Model Year(s)
SATURN ION 2004-2007
Manufacturer: General Motors LLC

SUMMARY:
ODI has received 846 complaints and GM identified 3,489 reports alleging sudden loss of power steering assist in model year (MY) 2004 through 2007 Saturn Ion vehicles manufactured and sold by General Motors Corporation (GM). Sixteen of these complaints alleged that the EPS warning lamp had illuminated before or during the loss of steering assist and the increased steering effort contributed to a crash. Two of the GM crash claims indicated that the driver was injured in the crash.

In a previous Preliminary Evaluation PE10-005, ODI investigated the sudden loss of power steering assist in MY 2005 through 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt vehicles. In May 2011, in response to an ODI information request letter for RQ10-004, GM provided ODI with complaint, warranty and EPS system information related to EPS loss of assist for the Saturn ION and peer vehicles Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu. In that response, GM indicated that the EPS system used in the subject vehicles was the same as that used in the MY2005 to 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5. In March 2010, GM recalled approximately 1.05 million Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles (NHTSA recall No. 10V-073) to correct a defect with the EPS assist motor. The defect identified was described as a buildup of brush debris mixed with oily material on the EPS electric motor armature which causes the motor to stop functioning; the same problem identified in the current subject vehicles. ODI has duplicated this failure in both a Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn ION previously tested at the Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC).

In the defect notification letter for the previously recalled Cobalt and G5 vehicles, GM stated that the vehicles may experience a sudden loss of assist that could occur at any time while driving and that if power steering was lost the vehicle would revert to manual steering mode and would require increased steering effort from the driver. ODI believes that, depending on driving circumstances this increase in steering effort could result in some loss of control and a crash.

An engineering analysis has been opened to further assess the frequency, scope and safety consequences of a sudden loss of steering assist in the subject vehicles.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 47 Comments
      Jerry
      • 9 Months Ago
      They already recalled the EPS module on the Cobalt and G5. Had mine swapped in my old 08 Cobalt 3 years ago. The Ion recall should have happened at the same time seeing how the EPS module is identical to the that in the Cobalt and G5. This gives me hope. It seems that Mrs. Barra might be willing to do the right thing. Then again, she has no choice really with all the scrutiny on GM right now. I was always disgusted with Whitacre's and Akerson's efforts to dismiss anything Pontiac or Saturn as "old GM's problem". I will be truly impressed if they recall the Grand Prix's rear chassis defects like they did for the Impala about 2 years ago.
        john96xlt
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Jerry
        Agreed 100%, the real testament to her honesty and willingness to admit to and deal with past mistakes (that didn't occur on her watch) will be realized after the current fire storm is over.
      normc32
      • 9 Months Ago
      Electric steering supplier is Toyota owned and the Vibe and Marix.
        GR
        • 9 Months Ago
        @normc32
        What are you talking about? Where's your proof? Also, work on grammar and spelling.
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          They are manufactured by JTEKT, a Japanese company owned by the Toyota Group. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JTEKT http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyoda_Machine_Works http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Group
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @GR
          Aww, man! -5 doesn't make it any less true. LOL @ the pathetic troll.
        Roger Smith
        • 9 Months Ago
        @normc32
        In your dreams,the Matrix and any Saturn don't have anything to do,now about the Honda engine on the Korean design and engineer VUE Red Line is another story
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Roger Smith
          So terribly stupid, no matter what handle you use. If you were trying to portray yourself as an American with your new screen name, maybe take some typing and English lessons to try to pull it off.
      Iceman
      • 9 Months Ago
      So, how many more defects is GM hiding?
        tiger
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Iceman
        How many defects are any manufaturer hiding? I don't care if its GM, Toyota, Kenmore or Apple.
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @tiger
          No man, only American manufacturers are intent on ripping off the consumer at every opportunity. Most even bake in flaws in the cars on purpose just to screw with people 10 years later, for fun I guess. This, they figure, is an excellent way to obtain high customer retention and a solid reputation. By contrast, Toyota could never do such a thing. They run off the love of cuddly little puppy dogs and kisses from little girls on the cheek, so there's no way in hell they'd hide something from the consumer and get fined BILLIONS of dollars for doing so after it was discovered. To suggest such is just absurd! Every single "issue" they have EVER had is always the fault of a supplier (that they cannot control, reject, or replace of course since apparently they're required by law to continue buying inferior products, at least, that must be it since they blame their suppliers 95% of the time), the consumer, or simply made up by stupid American UAW workers in an attempt taint Toyota's absolutely perfect history and reputation. These UAW workers will even go so far as to buy $35K Toyota/Lexus cars and pretend they have defects just so they can report them to NHTSA! Toyota could build 500,000 death traps that burst into flames 2 miles out of warranty while simultaneously locking the doors, rolling up the windows and tightening the seatbelts to trap the driver and passengers inside, and the typical Toyotaphiles on this board would just write it off as a "non-issue" or claim it doesn't exist at all. IF it is proven by thousands upon thousands of cases, THEN and ONLY THEN is Toyota responsible, and they *always* do "the right thing" by recalling the vehicles after the problems are discovered, reported, reported, reported, reported, reported, and reported again. That's if they don't get a waiver.
          Roger Smith
          • 9 Months Ago
          @tiger
          This John don't ever look on the Internet or travel out of his city?Toyota is one of the BEST cars ever made,not only here but around the glove,defects are on any humans build machine,but the way they hold the miles is amazing,now the supplier for the pedal was from USA and build by UAW
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @tiger
          Oh my little French turd, just what "pedal" is used with an electric power steering system? I do leave my town occasionally, and I'm on the internet quite a bit, but I've never seen nor heard of a "pedal" that steers the car. That's true here, and around the "glove".
      tiger
      • 9 Months Ago
      If you really think about it, anything can be deemed a safety issue and subject to a recall. Rearview mirror falls off? Light bulb burned out? Brakes wore out? Rear defrost quit working? Ignition module fails and car won't start? Battery dies? There comes a time where stuff gets old and breaks and the owner needs to accept responsibility. But brush debris collects under the car and builts up? Where are people driving their cars? If the air bag light comes on in my 20 year old car, will that become a safety recall? Would be nice but as a reasonable person, I would not expect it too. Nor would I expect ANY car manufaturer be responsible for trash collecting under my car causing a failure of any kind.
      churchmotor
      • 9 Months Ago
      Poor normc32. It's been a rough week for her.
        john96xlt
        • 9 Months Ago
        @churchmotor
        Don't worry, I'm sure Toyota and Honda will be back on their recall game next week.
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @john96xlt
          Oh fran, did you forget to swap handles again? I wasn't speaking to you, I was speaking to the troll who's down voting everybody who has a point, just like she does on every article to people not kissing the toes of Akio Toyoda. Unless, that is, you're ready to admit that it's you who's doing that? If you want to keep up the charade of "I'm really a bunch of different people, not the same troll down voting and commenting to myself", then perhaps you should take care to only answer people speaking to one of your handles with that handle.
          fran
          • 9 Months Ago
          @john96xlt
          Whatever you say, doc! ;)
          fran
          • 9 Months Ago
          @john96xlt
          I apologize on behalf of churchmotor to include you with normc32.
      Basil Exposition
      • 9 Months Ago
      Ugh, the Ion was like the worst car ever. Totally killed Saturn.
        john96xlt
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Basil Exposition
        It was a horrible car. I had a '99 Saturn SL, pretty good little car except it started using a lot of oil at or after 150K or so (very typical). Other than that, great MPG (40+ with the 5-speed) and decent driving dynamics for a FWD economy car. In the early 2000s, I sold my brother's in laws a very low mileage, one-owner, well-taken-care-of 1996 Chevy Corsica 4cyl. They drove it for a dozen years or so, put 150K+ on it themselves, and the worst thing it ever needed was an A/C compressor. They told me several times that it was the best car they'd ever owned as far as reliability, it just never broke down and suited their needs as a "work car" perfectly. They sold it a few years ago and bought a low mileage Saturn ION to replace it. I still see the Corsica running around driven by the gal they sold it to, with well over 200K on it and still going. I seriously doubt that horrible ION will last that long. I've tried to convince them to get rid of it but they insist that since it's paid for, it's not "that bad". Neither the Corsica nor the ION would be my personal choice in vehicles, but of the two, I'd certainly take the Corsica.
      x19x19
      • 9 Months Ago
      What a sad product arc Saturn took. Started as an attractive import fighter with innovative manufacturing techniques and a refreshing sales approach. Ended up as the picture above. Is it any wonder GM ended in bankruptcy.
        Karfreek
        • 9 Months Ago
        @x19x19
        The 1994 Saturn Homecoming edition was the first car I ever saw with factory Pearl/Diamond White paint that was not a expensive luxury car. It was stunning. I wanted one bad back in the day.
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          @Karfreek, Ignore the many down votes, you simply had the audacity to say something nice about a GM product, and it pisses Larry The Troll Guy/Big Disappointment off something fierce. You should've instead trashed the Saturn and for some odd reason, mentioned how great the Camry is. Then you'd be +7 instead of -7, but of course, you'd have lied in doing so.
          Karfreek
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          Wow, no love for the 1994 Saturn SL2...
          calitokansas28
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          *get any hugs*
          Karfreek
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Karfreek
          I was speaking from the heart. I had found one for sale for cheap a few years ago and thought about picking it up just for fun but it was too far gone.
      dave and mary
      • 9 Months Ago
      Let's see here ... I've got 20 large to invest in a stock. Should I go with GM; or Antarctic Strawberry's?
      Roger Smith
      • 9 Months Ago
      Wow,why they don't sold the whole name to Royer Penske? (To competitive from the idea of export some cars from Korea?),why they let Saab die? (s.A.I.C. China is partner of GM and the main brain behind Buick) those ecotec motors are all Saab Ideas way back then and even the name,all my Saab models from GM were garbage,clutch cable every year,command center with burn L.E.D.,engine lost on a 9-5,steering wheel lock itself on my girlfriend C5 corvette just out of the dealer,happens twice and trade it for a real sport car (BMW C.P.O. Last us 5 years and free of trouble,also best trade ever too,Government should sue them for all the lies and money waste on useless things,like the whole Manchester United deal and leave all the old GM people and the biggest joke a new CEO that work with the ld GM for 30 years,let see if she said that doesn't know anything,when she did and cover many,many crappy cars coming out of them.......did anyone said something about the Corvette problems with the steering lock? (c5 model)
        john96xlt
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Roger Smith
        More pointless, ill-written dribble by you. Seriously, get some new material, and take some English classes.
          • 9 Months Ago
          @john96xlt
          [blocked]
          john96xlt
          • 9 Months Ago
          @john96xlt
          @ yonomo, just wait until she starts in on her belief (despite many facts to the contrary) that Daewoo is building (and designed) the Chevy Traverse.
      Avinash Machado
      • 9 Months Ago
      GM is on its way to overtake Toyota as the recall king.
      Teleny411
      • 9 Months Ago
      Do it's not only painfully ugly and poorly built, but also dangerous?
      Koenigsegg
      • 9 Months Ago
      ...Ugly!
        john96xlt
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Koenigsegg
        Yeah, but I'd still take one over a Model S(erious fire hazard). For the non-Tesla trolls, no I wouldn't take an ION over a Model S, but I figured it'd "burn" him up a little to say I would, lol. He deserves it for all the crap he spews on damn near every article.
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