Originally affecting 780,000 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s, General Motors has now added another 588,000 vehicle in a recall to fix ignition switches that can lead to the engine being shut off. So far, 31 crashes and 13 front-seat deaths have been linked to the issue.
Automotive News reports the newly affected models include 2003 through 2007 Saturn Ions and 2006 through 2007 Chevrolet HHRs, Saturn Skys and Pontiac Solstices, bringing the total affected by the recall to 1.37 million.
The problem was first discovered in 2004 as the 2005 Cobalt entered showrooms, though GM took no action until December 2005, when the automaker issued a service bulletin advising dealers to advise their customers to not use heavy or large key chains. GM also offered an insert that would prevent keys from hanging too low or swinging too freely, thus preventing unintended ignition cut-offs.
By MY 2007, supplier Delphi began shipments of an approved replacement switch, followed in February 2009 by a redesign of the key to further reduce the risk of accidental shutdowns from an ill-timed bump. By the time the Cobalt left production in 2010, however, the damage was already done: a cluster of crashes where the ignition switch was bumped from “run” to “accessory” or “off,” disabling the airbag and other power systems (like the steering and vacuum assist for the brakes) prior to each crash. It wasn’t until the end of January of this year — after internal investigations were concluded — that a safety recall was finally issued.
GM North America President Alan Batey said in a statement that though his employer may not have been quick enough in issuing the recall, an issue the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association plans to examine, GM will take “an unflinching look at what happened” regarding the ignition recall, adding that customer safety was No. 1 on their list.
In the meantime, owners are advised to use the ignition with nothing adorning the key until their nearest dealer has a chance to inspect and replace the faulty switch. GM is also working with their suppliers to increase parts output in order to quickly introduce replacements into the chain.