NHTSA Opens Probe to See What Took GM So Long to Recall Dangerous Ignition Switches

By Jacob Brown | February 27, 2014
First, let's get the important part out of the way: If you have a 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5--also known as the Pontiac Pursuit in Canada--2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky, General Motors is recalling your car for a faulty ignition lock. Take your car into a local General Motors dealership immediately to have the car serviced, as the lock could come loose over bumpy roads, leading to the car shutting off and the potential for an accident greatly increasing. If that weren't bad enough, with the ignition off, the airbags don't work. Thing is, General Motors knew about this problem in 2004 right when the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 went on sale. In 2007, a fatal accident occurred as a result of the faulty ignition switch. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked GM if a recall were necessary; GM sat on it. GM's engineers even went so far as to create a solution for the problem, which was never implemented on a wide scale. Short of a recall, GM fixed just 474 cars in the late 2000s under a service bulletin. Since then, Automotive News reports that 31 accidents and 13 deaths have been linked to the faulty ignition switches. The question is: Why did GM let this problem persist? Now, the NHTSA is opening a probe against GM to see for itself. Delayed recalls have cost automakers as much as $35 million in fines, the maximum amount allowable by law. The culprit in that case was Toyota, whose mess was tangled in sticking accelerator pedals, alleged unintended acceleration, frames that rusted prematurely in its pickup trucks, and a wide array of other small misdeeds that weren't recalled in a timely fashion. Seeing as the affected vehicles amount to 1.37 million in the U.S. and 1.6 million worldwide, GM is going to have lots of 'splainin' to do. Things like this have happened before, such as when General Motors recalled police-spec Chevrolet Impalas only, while civilian versions were left to be fixed at the owners' cost. GM claimed at the time that, because the cars were built by pre-bankrupt GM, post-2009 wasn't responsible for them. GM could potentially pull that card again. We'll let you know as we learn more. Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)