By on September 8, 2012

A software glitch in the OnStar system caused GM to halt sales of certain models, including the brand-new Cadillac ATS.

Some 60,000 vehicles were affected by the glitch, which prevents OnStar’s crash notification system from notifying their call center in certain collisions that don’t trigger the airbags. Among the cars affected are the 2013 Chevrolet Equinox, Cruze and Volt, the Cadillac XTS and ATS, the 2012 Cadillac SRX , the Buick Verano and the GMC Terrain.

According to Automotive News, GM sent a memo to dealers telling them to “stop the delivery” of affected vehicles, and that the issue would be cleared by late September. Most vehicles can be fixed via a remote software flash, however some cars require a manual upgrade performed at the dealer.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

62 Comments on “OnStar Glitch Causes GM To Halt Sales Of Certain Models...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Software glitch? How long has OnStar had the “call in the event of a crash” feature? Another mistep.

    • 0 avatar
      Dubbed

      If I’m not mistaken it was one of its key features when the service was launched in 1996.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      How many similarities do you think the software in the current system has with the one introduced 16 years ago?

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        ‘Similarities’?

        The fact that it still transmits to ‘big-brother’ at RenCen.

        Reason 1000 why i’ll never buy GM again (unless its a GTO/G8/Caprice with the MoronStar module REMOVED. Not disconnected, not wires cut, but REMOVED).

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        The entire point of OnStar is to talk to “big brother.” The question was intended to illustrate the folly of comparing a 16-year-old computer system to one that’s relatively new, but apparently that didn’t penetrate. I guess that’s why you’re working at Acura and not a car company that actually responds to consumer demands.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Well, this is a good time for you to visit your local GM dealer and persuade them to sell you one of the ‘defective’ vehicle, against GM’s orders! ;)

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Sigh…Not Big Brother…Big Business…The fact that our cars have event data recorders that rat you out is disgusting.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      It’s always called if the airbags deployed. The automatic notification in the event of a non-airbag-deploy crash is a newer innovation. Doesn’t seem like it’s worthy of a stop sale order, though, since it’s not something that could cause the car to spontaneously combust or deploy a sword instead of an airbag.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The call on a non-airbag deploy accident has been around since 2005-ish. The “science” involved is a lot more tricky. In early implementations drivers were getting automated, “it seems you were in an accident” calls when they were hooning, out on the track, or as I seem to remember, one of the car mags triggered during the testing of either a CTS-V or a Grand Prix GXP – one of which was one of the first to get this feature (can’t remember which).

        OnStar felt they had enough data to start doing automatic accident calls on certain non-airbag crashes (like a significant rear ending).

        I had one such call in 2006 when the GM vehicle I was driving was, rear ended hard. The front airbags did not deploy as I hit nothing in front of me (unlike the tool riding my ass, I had a wide enough safety gap to the car in front of me when it stopped short). The “phone” started ringing and OnStar basically asked me if I had just been in an accident. Told them yes and needed police and a tow truck – they took care of everything.

        As far as the tinfoil hat wearing types, between EZ Passes, the RFID chips in passports and enhanced border driver licenses, and the constant stream of data coming from your cell phone, including the tracking of which cell tower where and when it was pinging, “big brother” doesn’t need OnStar to track each and every move.

        Good Lord I can put a mediocre scan tool for under $100 onto any OBDII vehicle and tell you how fast you’ve driven your car, and other telemetry data that could make you kiss your warranty goodbye.

        If you’re that paranoid suggest you go off the grid, get off the internet, because the government is reading your electrons and tracking your IP address, and start riding a bike. Certainly without any form of credit card or ID on you – as most have quite trackable RFID chips in them.

        If you’re up at night worrying about OnStar, you’re worrying about the wrong things in the world.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Well put APaGttH.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      So now we have the B&B complaining that a nanny device isn’t working correctly? Has anyone had the concept of picking up your cell phone and calling the police if you’ve been in an accident. The “call in event of a crash” works even if you aren’t subscribed to Onstar. Buddy of mine found that out after a one truck crash. Your location data is sent by your cell phone and your spending habits are on display whenever you swipe a card. Normally, no one gives a hoot about that data. What scares me is that data can be used for reconstructive purposes.

  • avatar

    Sounds like BS to me.

    There is probably another “cash” related reason why they are delayed.

    I was in Chevy this morning. We are going to trade in a loaded Buick Enclave for a 2013 Malibu 2.5 loaded.

  • avatar
    mcs

    What’s up with their software development process? With proper code reviews and regression testing, they should have caught it.

    • 0 avatar
      NotFast

      Apparently you don’t work in the real world. I work in IT and find the number of projects where major bugs are found after ‘go live’ to be HIGH.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I can confirm this. I was actually part of a major disastrous project in 2009-10 time frame involving medication dispensing in four major US hospitals… we put alpha grade code on a ‘customer beta’ and watched it explode for nine months until we were able to stabilize everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I’d also bet that the OnStar stuff is largely outsourced, if its reliability (especially the online components like RemoteLink and the websites) is any indication.

      Though GM’s new CTO or CIO or whoever is building a new IT center in Austin, and is allegedly looking to insource 90% of their IT.. We’ll see..

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      It was Akerson’s duty to examine his WENUS.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I must be missing something, but I would think that it would be preferable to provide a month of free service and an advisory to the affected customers, rather than halt deliveries entirely.

    As far as defects go, this is pretty minor. It’s not as if most of those 60,000 drivers are going to get into a major wreck over the next three weeks that would require OnStar to notify the authorities.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Lawyers and court cases are expensive.

      BTW, the issue is that OnStar might not report a minor crash, rather than a major one.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “BTW, the issue is that OnStar might not report a minor crash, rather than a major one.”

        It’s a non-issue. Having the customer sign a waiver is enough to protect GM’s legal backside, and even that may not be necessary. (It’s not as if Onstar can be blamed for any accidents that may occur during this period.)

        I guess that I should have been more blunt: I have my doubts about the explanation that was provided. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

        Not to say that the underlying problem is likely to be a disaster that merits much attention, but there may be a bit more going on here.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Software like this is typically tested by loading it onto a controller and then feeding it sensor data that simulates real world conditions. Every type of crash or other situation would have been simulated and the response verified. It’s usually an automated test.

        I don’t know how this particular problem would have made it through the testing. Either they have issues with what should be a simple test procedure or there’s something else going on. Yes it’s a minor issue, but if they have testing issues, something major could easily slip by in the future.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Ya, have the customer sign a waiver. Because we know that lawyers, judges, and juries fully understand the weight of a signed waiver, a signed non-compete, a signed release, a signed…

        I mean, if the system didn’t work in an accident and someone with a concussion didn’t get medical treatment and then later died, oh my goodness, that waiver certainly would protect GM and OnStar from negative headlines, court costs of fighting a case, class action pile on…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I mean, if the system didn’t work in an accident and someone with a concussion didn’t get medical treatment and then later died…”

        If the crash was that severe, then there would most likely be an airbag deployment. There is apparently no problem with the system when the airbags deploy.

        I know that you feel obliged to defend GM at every single turn, but it would help if you knew what it was that you’re defending.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        As a former EMT I can tell you a 4 MPH crash can kill you depending on what you hit as you go flying around. It has zilch to do with severity. It’s lawyers “following the money” and strawman does not hold up water. If OnStar non-assisted in an accident when it should have and it delayed rescue, treatment, and/or resulted in worse injury or death, they’re getting sued and the waiver you suggest? Would have about as much value as 2008 shares of GM stock.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “If OnStar non-assisted in an accident when it should have and it delayed rescue, treatment, and/or resulted in worse injury or death, they’re getting sued”

        Well, that makes OnStar sound like just one big lawsuit waiting to happen. It’s shocking that GM bothers with it at all.

        Your point isn’t particularly logical. Occam’s Razor suggests a simpler explanation (get ready for it):

        -GM doesn’t really know what’s wrong. They can’t just sell the cars and reflash them remotely later because they aren’t sure how big the problem is or how long that it’s going to take them to find a fix for it.

        The “three week” explanation doesn’t pass the basic smell test of credibility. The problem that they’ve described doesn’t warrant the response.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      @PCH

      You are flat out wrong on this one. Your assumption that major companies lie to their customers is probably a healthy one at times…but you are wrong here.

      Dealers already have instructions on how to flash the Sensing and Diagnostic Module (SDM).

      Basically, the stop sale is in place for all those vehicle but the completion of the reprogramming cancels the stop sale. At the same time, they are remotely flashing selected vehicles as well.

      Your belief in ‘waivers’ tells me that you don’t have much experience in the legal arena or in PR disasters that can come from the mere filing of a lawsuit that gains publicity.

      The stop sale was to show a good faith effort to fix a problem as soon as they discovered it. Also, you can get a pretty good concussion from a rear impact collision….and your airbags most likely will not deploy.

      And, yes…people sue car companies when safety equipment doesn’t work as designed. That may shock you but its a cost of doing business.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Dealers already have instructions on how to flash the Sensing and Diagnostic Module (SDM).”

        You should inform Automotive News and General Motors of your findings, since they apparently haven’t been able to fix everything:

        “Some vehicles already are cleared for sale, after GM fixed them through a software upgrade flashed remotely through the OnStar system. But because that method hasn’t worked on all of the affected vehicles, GM is having dealers fix the remainder through a manual upgrade on their lots.”

        http://www.autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120907/OEM/120909914/gm-halts-deliveries-of-certain-2012-13-vehicles-to-fix-software-glitch

        “people sue car companies when safety equipment doesn’t work as designed.”

        OnStar isn’t a safety device like a crumple zone or an airbag, it’s a glorified mobile phone.

        Try this: get into a crash, and then try suing AT&T, Verizon or Sprint if you try to place a call but your phone isn’t working. Good luck trying to make a case for negligence or contributory negligence — you’re going to need it.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Seriously PCH….I said there is a manual flash available to dealerships…and you questioned me. Your damn quote says there is a manual solution available to the dealerships.

      The remote flash is cheaper to GM (no labor claim) but it doesn’t always work apparently. Thus, the instructions on how dealerships can do it manually. My source is a good friend who is a service manager at a multi-OEM dealership group (which includes some GM)

      If you need to learn more about stop sales…google ‘Honda Stop Sale’ or ‘toyota stop sale’ or ‘bmw stop sale’ it happens all the time. Its basically a way to put some liability on the dealers to fix the problems of impacted vehicles in their inventory that are not sold. When there is a solution (as there is in this case) the stop sale stays in place with a disclaimer saying the stop sale is cancelled when the manual flash is performed.

      http://www.joelhschwartz.com/blog/?p=44

      There’s one example…yes…people sue. I didn’t say they would win…but they sue. Imagine what would happen if it was known that this feature wouldn’t work and nothing was done.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If there was a genuine safety issue of any sort, then there would be a federally-mandated recall. That’s how the feds do it.

        For this, there isn’t even a TSB, let alone a recall. Neither the federal government nor GM are treating it like a safety issue. Why the resident GM fan club would feel compelled to escalate this beyond what it is, I don’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      ‘If there was a genuine safety issue of any sort, then there would be a federally-mandated recall. That’s how the feds do it’

      Congrats…you know what a recall is. Give yourself a gold star! And, yes, you are correct in that this doesn’t fit under the fed recall area.

      Here’s a similar example from Honda.

      http://www.insideline.com/honda/accord/2011/honda-stops-sale-of-2011-accord-cr-v-to-check-for-oil-leaks.html

      Stop sale…but not a recall…dealers perform a fix/inspection and move on.

      ‘For this, there isn’t even a TSB’

      Again, you are incorrect. There is a TSB…in that TSB are the instructions on how a dealership can manually perform the flash to the SDM if the remote flash doesn’t work OR if they want to sell a car before the remote flash is pushed. I’m sure my friend can give me the TSB # if you don’t believe me.

      ‘Neither the federal government nor GM are treating it like a safety issue. Why the resident GM fan club would feel compelled to escalate this beyond what it is, I don’t know.’

      You were the one implying and ‘escalating’ that there was some sort of deeper issue here not being disclosed. I tend to deal in facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “Congrats…you know what a recall is.”

        Unfortunately, I can’t congratulate you, since you seem not to know yourself.

        You’ve been repeatedly claiming that this is a safety issue. Apparently, it isn’t, as it isn’t being dealt with as a safety issue by either NHTSA or GM. Your safety claim just doesn’t hold water.

        “Here’s a similar example from Honda.”

        You’re really missing the point here. Let’s go through it again.

        It’s clear from the Honda example that Honda knows what the problem is. In contrast, the Automotive News story suggests that GM is trying to find a solution that has yet to be found, because the reflash works on only some of the models.

        This would reinforce my suspicion that GM has halted this particular batch of cars because it isn’t quite sure how to fix it. But since they don’t want to admit that, we’re left with the equivalent of “we’re working on it.”

        “There is a TSB”

        You should inform NHTSA of this, since they don’t seem to be aware of this TSB.

        This Onstar issue isn’t to be found in the NHTSA ODI TSB database. As of this writing, GM has 14 TSB’s for its MY 2013 models. All of those TSBs are on the Malibu and none of them have anything to do with this problem. http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/tsbs/

        “I tend to deal in facts.”

        I think that I’ve just amply demonstrated that you often don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      There is a TSB. Not sure how NHTSA #’s them, but the GM # is 12187. It looks like NHTSA does their updates once a month given the dates on the releases are always the first of the month? Just a guess. That, or every car company chooses to release them on the first of the month….highly doubtful. Perhaps the OEM’s only update NHTSA once a month?

      Perhaps you should notify NHTSA that you would like real time updates to their database for your use.

      I’m just not sure where you think there is no ‘fix.’ As stated multiple times (and in the article), they have a fix that can be remotely pushed OR manually flashed. Here’s a quote from the article:

      ‘Some vehicles already are cleared for sale, after GM fixed them through a software upgrade flashed remotely through the OnStar system. But because that method hasn’t worked on all of the affected vehicles, GM is having dealers fix the remainder through a manual upgrade on their lots.’

      I read that as, the remote flash doesn’t ‘take’ in all vehicles so the dealerships have to manually flash them. Not sure why, it might be some Onstar systems aren’t activated and can’t take the remote flash? Beats me.

      The stop sale order is consistent with what other car companies do when situations occur. Some of those situations are in areas that mandate stop sales and safety recalls….some of those situations are in areas NOT mandated by the feds…but yet other OEMs do the same stop sale.

      Here’s a Hyundai example with a stop sale not being a fed recall item:
      http://www.autoweek.com/article/20100223/CARNEWS/100229954

      ‘Hyundai engineers were trying today to determine whether the malfunction even warranted notification to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which governs product recalls’

      I have not ever said this is a safety issue in the realm of a NHTSA mandated recall area. I suspect the is a CYA move in the event of someone finding a lawyer to sue them down the road to show good faith effort to fix the issue? Its also a good faith effort to the public about handling an issue with a vehicle. Onstar is a selling point to a small part of the car buying public and not having all the safety features available (and not making efforts to fix an issue) doesn’t look good.

  • avatar
    carguy

    This is really post worthy? OnStar not reporting minor crashes in which airbags don’t deploy is not exactly stop the press news. I would applaud GM for being up front with it rather than a lot of European brands which would have never admitted it.

    • 0 avatar

      Re: Commenting policy

      “No ‘what not to write’ requests: We appreciate suggestions of what to cover, we do not appreciate suggestions of what not to write and to ignore. The decision of what to select as TTAC content is solely that of TTAC editors.”

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Questioning the newsworthiness of any post item should be considered fair game if you really want to call the comments section “open.”

        You still haven’t given us an explanation as to why the “no recalls” policy was trashed in favor of one that leans heavily on American manufacturers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        In an average year, there are about 100 or so automotive recalls in the United States.

        In addition to that, there are even more Technical Service Bulletins issued, some of which are effectively similar to recalls. (Problems that are safety-related invariably become recalls, but many issues that aren’t safety-related end up as TSB’s that provide free repairs, even for cars that are out of warranty.)

        Unless you want to turn this into Recall and TSB Digest, the coverage of such things is going to necessarily be selective. Robert Farago avoided such things for a reason, and suffice it to say, Mr. Farago was obviously not some drooling GM fanboy.

      • 0 avatar

        PintoFan,

        I’ve written about fire related recalls of MINIs and also that BMW might have a corporate wide fire issue with turbocharged MINIs, BMWs and Rolls-Royces. Are any of those American manufacturers?

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        @Derek: I wholeheartedly endorse TTAC’s policy of policing comments for name calling, trolling, flaming and a range of other undesirable unpleasantness that infects so many other news sites. However, trying to censor or suppress perfectly civil comments on TTAC’s editorial policy maybe over reaching the mission to keep the comments section relevant and professional.

        When TTAC post an article of any type, it means it has something to say (unlike Autoblog, which pursues a policy of quantity over quality in its relentless quest for content). Thus when an article comes along on this site that doesn’t really meet any of the usually high news, insight or entertainment standards, its only reasonable to expect that someone may comment on it.

        Don’t take it as an affront to TTAC or yourself but be thankful that you have readers that hold TTAC to a higher standard than the rest of the automotive news business.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        @Schreiber: I said “leans heavily,” not exclusive. Still waiting for a story on the Toyota door fires which have actually injured people and caused significant property damage, as opposed to all the other recall stories that have been run.

        It’s hard to carry water in a sieve.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      The OnStar glitch certainly doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think stopping delivery of several models (including a volume seller like the Cruze) for three weeks sounds noteworthy.

      And, as others have noted, the scope of GM’s response seems disproportionate to the problem. Their reasoning sounds suspicious.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        And if in 2007 Toyota halted sales of a wide range of vehicles due to floor mats that could under certain cases entrap the gas pedal, would it not seem strange (if we didn’t know what now what they knew then) to do a halt sales, back in 2007, before it became a huge stinking issue.

        Have we already forgotten the new world order causing companies as a whole to operate at an abundant level of caution.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    ‘GM sent a memo to dealers telling them to “stop the delivery” of affected vehicles, and that the issue would be cleared by late September.’

    Sounds more like code for: ‘well, we can’t sell them anyway, so lets blame it on MoronStar’.

    Other than trucks, I have yet to meet someone 20-30 years old of means who would even CONSIDER a neo-GM of any brand. The bailouts have alienated an entire generation of buyers, SINCE WE HAVE TO PAY FOR THIS MALINVESTMENT.

    • 0 avatar
      PintoFan

      “SINCE WE HAVE TO PAY FOR THIS MALINVESTMENT”

      There is a significant portion of the new generation considers the entire concept of car ownership to be a malinvestment. This causes an amusing amount of frothing at the mouth from Boomers and the like, who just can’t understand why somebody would look at their model of consumption, see what it’s done to our planet and our society, and say “No thanks.”

      Beyond that, all I can really say is that most people I know between the ages of 20-30 are aware of the bailout, but don’t care about it, and don’t even know what it cost or what it entailed.

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      Malinvestment, indeed. Since I consider the billions wasted on the bailout money we’ll never, ever get back, I’d just as soon see nature take its course. It really grinds my gears there are still people who continue to enable GM’s tenuous existence by purchasing its subpar products. They deserve all they get.

      I recently had the pleasure of “congratulating” a new 20-something Cruze owner:

      “Wow, sharp Daewoo!”

      “Thanks! … Uh, it’s a Chevy?”

      “Well, that’s what the badge says. You should have really done some research beforehand where your car came from… and what other Daewoos used to be sold here.”

      “Ummm…”

      If that person now feels just a bit lousier about her asinine purchase decision, I’m a happy guy. Even more so if a recall notice arrives in her mailbox this week.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I think GM is a pretty screwed up organization in many ways, but you really can’t hate on the Cruze as a product. I have spent three weeks with three different Cruzes in the past couple months as rentals, and I have been pretty impressed by it as a car. Drives nicely, if not remotely sportingly, excellent fit and finish, nice interior, quiet, comfortable. Simply a quantum leap for GM and better than anything Japanese in the class (or even the next class up), IMHO. Only thing wrong with it is the lack of a fifth door. Even the 45K early example that had obviously been in an accident due to the not quite matched paint on the driver’s side doors was still tight and rattle free. 45K rental abuse miles can bring a Camry to its knees!

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Yeah, the world needs more people who get happy by making other people feel lousy.

      • 0 avatar
        Volts On Fire

        It really does. Morons and idiots have entirely too much freedom to force the consequences of their poor decisions onto others. Look at all the Obamaites out there.

      • 0 avatar
        oboylepr

        ..and it will!

        Oops Sorry Volts on Fire! I meant this as a reply to your earlier post. The one about recall notices. I’m all thumbs today.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Well played Volts on Fire… hate Daewoo and hate RenCen/DotGov for pushing it in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I am hard pressed to think of anybody who refuses to buy GM because of the bailout. They may not have any interest in buying for other reasons, but all the bailout BS that gets bandied about around hear is ancient news and the general public does not care anymore. I’ll venture to say that those on TTAC that are screaming they will never buy GM because of the bailout were never going to buy GM anyway. “We the People” may never get the money back from GM, but “We the People” are generally more outraged by the $1,000 toilet seats the Pentagon likes to buy.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        And “We the People” are more outraged at the money thrown at Wall Street and the banking industry with absolutely no consequences whatsoever for plunging us into a near-depression. The money spent on the auto industry was a pittance by comparison and it did keep people working and paying taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      AcuraAndy there is some truth to what you claim, but the H and W body models have overall been pretty solid 1995-2010. The K platform could have been, but well the Northstar dashed all hopes of reliability.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    More Bovine excrement from GM. It’s just not credible that such a problem should require this kind of action unless the onstar was causing an accident as opposed to reporting it. One has to take any statement this lousy company makes with a whole salt mine! Of course the GM apologists will just lap it up.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I’m happy that TTAC reports on stuff like this.

    Of course, I don’t read all of it, but this one, since I have On-Star, I’m naturally interested. I’m happy my car isn’t affected, but if I was buying a new car that is affected and if I had to wait a few weeks – well, it’ll be interesting to see how many customers are willing to wait or will move on to something else.

    For the record, we checked out and test-drove a LaCrosse and really liked it, but I decided I liked the Chevy better.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    Speaking of Government Motors, here is a very interesting article about the loose credit that is being used to make the bailout look “successful”. I love this line: “It’s amazing how many cars you can sell when you aren’t worried about getting paid.”

    http://www.theburningplatform.com/?p=40182


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India