Update: GM Cover Up?

GM expands recall after crashes linked to deaths, but did they wait too long?

Two teens died in a 2005 Cobalt in Wisconsin in 2006. At the time of the crash the car had no power and the airbags, power steering, and power brakes were not on
CBS News

General Motors on Tuesday doubled to 1.6 million the number of small cars it is recalling to fix faulty ignition switches linked to multiple fatal crashes.

More than 200-thousand are being recalled in Canada.

Just two weeks ago, GM announced the recall of more than 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. It's now adding 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts, Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars.

The company was immediately lambasted by a well-known safety advocate who says GM knew of the problem for years and waited too long to recall the cars even though people were killed because of the problem.

GM says a heavy key ring or jarring from rough roads can cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position and shut off the engine and electrical power. That can knock out power-assisted brakes and steering and disable the front air bags. The problem has been linked to 31 crashes and 13 front-seat deaths. In the fatalities, the air bags did not inflate, but the engines did not shut off in all cases, GM said.

It was unclear whether the ignition switches caused the crashes, or whether people died because the air bags didn't inflate.

The vehicles being recalled include: Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s from the 2005 through 2007 model years; Saturn Ion compacts from 2003 through 2007; and Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars from 2006 and 2007. Most of the cars were sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

According to a chronology of events that GM filed Monday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company knew of the problem as early as 2004, and was told of at least one fatal crash in March of 2007. GM issued service bulletins in 2005 and 2006 telling dealers how to fix the problem with a key insert, and advising them to tell customers not to dangle too many items from their key chains. But the company's records showed that only 474 vehicle owners got the key inserts.

GM thought the service bulletin was sufficient because the car's steering and brakes were operable even after the engines lost power, according to the chronology.

By the end of 2007, GM knew of 10 cases in which Cobalts were in front-end crashes where the air bags didn't inflate, the chronology said.

In 2005, GM initially approved an engineer's plan to redesign the ignition switch, but the change was "later canceled," according to the chronology.

"They knew by 2007 they had 10 incidents where the air bag didn't deploy in this type of crash," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Center for Auto Safety. "This is a case where both GM and NHTSA should be held accountable for doing a recall no later than the spring of 2007."

GM North American President Alan Batey said in a statement that the process to examine the problem "was not as robust" as it should have been and said the GM of today would behave differently. "We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward," he said.

GM spokesman Alan Adler said that initially the rate of problems per 1,000 vehicles was low, so the company did not recall the cars.

NHTSA issued a statement that didn't address why the recall wasn't done sooner. The statement said the agency is communicating with GM about how long it took to identify the safety problem, but didn't specify if any action would be taken.

Dealers will replace the ignition switch for free, but Adler said it will take some time for the parts to be manufactured and sent to dealers. No time frame was given for making the repairs.

"We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can," Batey said.

Leave a comment:

showing all comments · Subscribe to comments
Comment Like
  • 19
  1. Peter posted on 02/26/2014 09:30 AM
    That's quite a big recall.

    You'd think that in our modern technology age, we would be able to build
    a reliable ignition switch.
    I always harp about my car, as a such a basic and critical function as a windshield wiper could fail so easily. The wiper rotator shaft slips so that the blade does not wipe, and it is so dangerous and unpredictable.

    Also, on my car, the horn does not beep unless you press the button in exactly the right spot with the right amount of force. I have tried to beep the horn many times but can never find the sweet spot. I was going to wire in my own horn using a doorbell push button. That would be the best way to go, compared to the failure of modern technology here.

    1. Angry Bill posted on 02/26/2014 10:55 AM
      @Peter That's the reason why I don't consider North American when I look for a car, which admittedly isn't that often. I'm not rich. Which is all the more reason why I need to have faith that my car won't fail me for several years. I don't have that faith for North American cars.
    2. Aliosha posted on 02/26/2014 11:34 AM
      @Angry Bill Not too long ago they were laughing at Toyota and their least they owned up in a more timely manner and now they're back on top.
      Can't say the same about American made; lesson here, don't buy American!
    3. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 12:07 PM
      @Aliosha That is true....
  2. John posted on 02/26/2014 09:38 AM
    Buy Japanese
    1. HP posted on 02/26/2014 11:36 AM
      @John Google Mitsubishi truck recalls and deaths...they're guilty of doing exactly what GM did except their CEO was convicted of negligence that led to the death of a driver...but more than 40 died because they wanted to save a few pennies.

      How about those Toyota acceleration issues?
    2. Angry Bill posted on 02/26/2014 12:24 PM
      @HP Don't forget Mitsubishi also brought us the Zero. How many pilots died while crashing those planes into the bridges of aircraft carriers?
  3. john posted on 02/26/2014 10:22 AM
    and people pay 30k for a piece of shit tin can . man people are so stupid .
  4. HP posted on 02/26/2014 11:31 AM
    Corporate homicide...GM found the problem during initial tests before the cars were released for sale. It's up there with thalidomide, Bhopal, Love Canal, Asbestos (although Hon. Dr. Kelly Leitch loves the stuff), and many more examples of people being killed for money by lobbyist protected corporate interests. GM even got taxpayer bailouts both here and in America.
  5. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 12:16 PM
    I have an '07 Impala, it works great. Probably best car I've ever driven compared to the other 4 I've had. Only two complaints:
    *GM and their cheap wiring techniques.
    For a while, my car would get stuck in PARK, and I couldn't shift out of it. Only to find out that the wiring wasn't flexible enough. So when you go through a few winters or hot/cold seasons, if there is any little movement, the wires break- and you're stuck wherever you are. Had someone help me re-solder and apply a lot of electrical tape- along with applying an L-shaped metal arm, so the problem doesn't happen again,
    *The ignition
    I had a problem with my key being stuck in the ignition. After taking it to the mechanic, they found that the solenoid had "burnt out' or something, because it wouldn't release the key. So they removed that part altogether, and everything works great. After hearing this story though, its now occurring to me that the failed part the mechanic removed was a "fix" for this very issue with the key shifting the car into ACCESSORY while the car is in motion.

    Scary stuff....
    1. Angry Bill posted on 02/26/2014 12:28 PM
      @Karl Burgin North American car companies design their cars to require maintenance. It's planned. It's the only way the dealers can make money, because we aren't exactly beating a path to their doors to just buy their cars. So they need to milk the revenue stream from repairs over time. Me, I can't afford to be nickle and dimed to death over the life of my car. Except with the cost of repairs, nickle and dime doesn't really apply. It's usually in the hundreds, if not thousands.

      I understand their business need for making cars this way... but I will not subject myself to it. I need a more reliable car.
    2. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 12:41 PM
      @Angry Bill The only ting that scares me really about imports (especially Japanese) is the safety, and the costs for parts.
      I have a very close mechanic family friend I rely on, and he basically tells me that for Japanese imports, the parts and labour are always more expensive- generally. I had a '93 Cadillac STS at one point. And besides being the second best drive overall, the maintenance and repairs were a financial nightmare. And I wouldn't survive in this environment with the average price is between $1.20/L and $1.30/L.
      But the second thing is safety. I'm not sure what they make these cars out of lately, but everytime I pass a car accident on the road that involves a Honda Accord or a Honda Civic, the car is 99% destroyed. When I got into an accident with my STS (which is why I no longer have it), the front bumper caved-in a bit but that was it.
      Another instance, I was in a '92 Olds Cutlass Ciera and I had someone rear-end me. I had a large white scratch, but the front of the other car was a mess, with smoke coming out. I was able to drive away just fine, and the other car barely did 40 Km/h.

      Maybe European imports is the way to go....i guess.

      But back to my Impala, the only reason why I trust it so much, is because all the cops, taxis, and other service companies are using them. There's got to be a reason why for that...
    3. David posted on 02/26/2014 12:50 PM
      @Karl Burgin Figures...the 2007 Impala is one of the worst cars GM has made...GM is actually facing a class action lawsuit over the complaints and repair expense of this car...Google show over 634 complaint issues and it's growing.

      I guess you pick your cars like you pick your mayor.
    4. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 01:14 PM
      @David 1.>Didn't know about the lawsuits...will look into that
      2.>You're one of those that fantasize about Rob Ford, aren't you? This topic is a million miles away from Ford- and yet you managed to work him into here somehow... Is Adam Vaughn your mentor? He tends to do the same thing too...
    5. David posted on 02/26/2014 03:15 PM
      @Karl Burgin I said "your mayor", not Rob Ford. My understanding is that you don't live or vote in Toronto so Rob Ford is not your mayor.

      Why didn't you understand this simple post?
    6. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 03:27 PM
      @David You are correct- Ford is not my mayor and I don't live in Toronto.
      But usually I get attacked for supporting Ford- not matter what the topic is. So I wasn't 100% sure which mayor you were referring. Even though in this posting it shouldn't matter- as the topic at hand is GM and the great recall.
      Sorry for the knee jerk reaction
    7. Angry Bill posted on 02/26/2014 04:35 PM
      @Karl Burgin I dunno, Karl. I kinda think the Honda Accord was very well engineered.

      Let's go back to a dark night on the Trans Canada in Saskatchewan, in the late 80s. I was posted to Cold Lake, Alberta, working on F18s. My wife and I, along with our infant daughter at the time decided to drive back to Ontario to see family, and drive back. On the way back, my wife was driving and I guess she was sleepy. She went off the road, woke up and panicked. So she slams the wheel the opposite direction, which had the effect of pulling us out and over to the ditch on the other side of the road. So she panicked again, spun the wheel the other way, and we were in the ditch on the other side of the road again. This happened about 3 or 4 times, all the time we were knocking out signs and posts and stuff. The only thing that stopped us was the on-coming transport truck. We hit it, but hit the side of the transport as she was coming back again for another round for the far side of the road. We finally spun around and stopped.

      I remember looking around the inside of the car, at my wife, and at that point our daughter in the back seat started crying. We were okay. The inside of the car looked in mint condition. I stepped out of the car, and the car was totaled. I mean, completely, utterly, beyond any hope of repair. The entire front end was gone, the frame was smashed, I remember kicking a wheel bearing off the side of the road.

      The car was a late 80s Honda Accord. Now, I have issues with some of their design decisions, such as the frequency at which they have issues with their CV boots and joints. However, that incident told me that car was very well engineered overall, to completely protect the interior of the car during that kind of crash.

      Anyway, I currently drive a Kia, because for the price, you get some nice features. It's cheap, economical, and gets me to work.
    8. Karl Burgin posted on 02/26/2014 04:53 PM
      @Angry Bill Crap...I've got nothing close to that account. And I hope I never have the pleasure of going through that ordeal either. Your first-hand account is testament to the great engineering of the cabin.
      Thank God you survived that Bill. And I will keep that in mind when I do in time look for another vehicle.

      I have had my eye on the Kia Soul.... ;p
    9. Angry Bill posted on 02/27/2014 10:18 AM
      @Karl Burgin Thanks, Karl.. I hope you never go through that, too!

      My wife was looking at the Kia Soul, too.. she thinks it's kinda neat. It's a bit too expensive for us right now, though. In any case, I plan on winning the Roll Up To Win Toyota Camry from Tim Hortons.. I'll be set after that.
showing all comments

Sign Up For Breaking News Alerts

Becoming a member only takes 60 seconds! Members get access to exclusive information and products that non-members do not, including concert ticket presales, trips, advance notice on upcoming entertainment events, movie screening passes, music giveaways and more!

Login with Facebook

Top Stories

Today's Poll

Now that Christine Elliott has both Rob and Doug Ford's support, do you think she has a better chance of becoming the next PC leader?

Voting is restricted to one vote every 24 hour(s) VoteResults


Stay connected 24/7! Receive breaking news and programming alerts right to your inbox. CLICK HERE to sign-up.