General Motors sold millions of cars with defective ignition locks, but just how serious is the defect? CNBC teamed up with Consumer Reports for a special report called Failure to Recall: Investigating GM to demonstrate exactly how one of the recalled cars reacts when the ignition lock fails.

The video is disquieting for not only owners of recalled GM cars, but also everyone who shares the road with them. A simple tug of the key chain is enough to kill basic safety features such as power steering, power brakes and air bags. Reporter Phil LeBeau attempted to steer a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt through a simple obstacle course to show what happens when these features are involuntarily shut down. He struggled to make it through the course, crushing several cones as he tried to keep the car under control.

In February, GM recalled 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other older small sedans for faulty ignition locks. The federal government hit GM with the maximum fine allowed - $35 million dollars - over its failure to recall the defective vehicles earlier. Documents show GM knew about the problem for years and failed to alert consumers or federal safety agencies.

GM has acknowledged at least 13 people have been killed in accidents due to the defect. The automaker advised owners to remove all key chains and fobs from the car's keys to prevent an unintended switch over to the 'accessory' position until the problem can be fixed.

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