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.

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  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. 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?
  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. 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.
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