1 more death linked to faulty ignition switch, bringing total to 13

GM expands ignition switch recall in U.S. by 824,000 vehicles

1 more death linked to faulty ignition switch, bringing total to 13

The addition of 2008-2010 model-year versions of the Saturn Ion and Sky, Pontiac G5 and Solstice and Chevrolet HHR, and 2008-2011 Chevy Cobalts, brings the total number of U.S. cars under the ignition switch recall to about 2.2 million.

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DETROIT -- General Motors is expanding its ignition switch recall to include another 824,000 U.S. models to ensure that owners of cars that may have been repaired over the years using faulty switches can get them replaced.

The addition of 2008-2010 model-year versions of the Saturn Ion and Sky, Pontiac G5 and Solstice and Chevrolet HHR, and 2008-2011 Chevy Cobalts, brings the total number of U.S. cars under the ignition switch recall to about 2.2 million.

GM also confirmed another fatality linked to the faulty ignition switch, bringing the total number of deaths to 13. The company said in a statement late today that the fatality happened last year involving a 2007 Cobalt in Quebec.

"GM is working cooperatively with Transport Canada and has notified U.S. government authorities," GM said in the statement.

Last month, GM recalled 1.37 million of the models in the United States for the ignition switch defect, which can slip out of the run position, disabling power steering, brakes and airbags. GM has now linked the problem to 35 crashes.

GM is not aware of any injuries or deaths in incidents involving the later-model cars announced in today's recall.

The original switches in those later-model cars were manufactured with switches that were redesigned after the 2006 model year. But GM decided to recall those models because some might have been repaired with the older ignition switches made by part supplier Delphi. About 90,000 older, faulty switches were used in aftermarket repairs over the years, GM said.

“We’re taking no chances with safety” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. “Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million and distributed to thousands of retailers isn’t practical. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling the rest of the model years.”

Overall, GM said it is expanding the recall by 971,000 vehicles worldwide.

"Because it is not feasible to track down all the parts, the company is taking the extraordinary step of recalling 824,000 more vehicles in the U.S. to ensure that every car has a current ignition switch," GM said in a statement.

Like the cars that were recalled last month, GM is telling owners of models covered by the expanded recall to remove any items from their key rings, including their key fobs, to prevent the added weight from moving the switch from the "run" to the "accessory" or "off" position.

GM said owners who might have received a bad replacement part will be sent letters during the week of April 21 with instructions on how to get the free repair. Customers who had previously paid to have their old switches replaced are eligible to be reimbursed.

GM faces numerous investigations over the timeliness of the recalls. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also come under fire for failing to track and identify the safety risk.

U.S. House and Senate committees will hold hearings next week in Washington as part of investigations of the recall.   

"Consumers impacted by GM's safety recall should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification," NHTSA said in a statement Friday. "In the meantime, NHTSA urges owners and drivers to follow GM's recommendation to use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring when operating the vehicle and seek the permanent repair remedy from GM as soon as replacement parts become available."

The agency said it will monitor GM's consumer outreach efforts as the recall process continues and take additional appropriate action as warranted.

Gabe Nelson contributed to this report.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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