The Truth About Cars » Cobalt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Cobalt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Ask The Best And Brightest: How Do You Handle Recall And Service Bulletins? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ask-the-best-and-brightest-how-do-you-recall-handling-service-bulletins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ask-the-best-and-brightest-how-do-you-recall-handling-service-bulletins/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:53:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=806346 cobalt report 19

Since arriving at TTAC, I have been continually challenged and impressed by the B&B. The knowledge, wisdom, and rather civil discourse that arrives in response to the so-called journalism I produce is awe inspiring, often. Thank you, B&B. I’ve also been tasked with handling the GM recall story, given my technical background and my familiarity with GM’s processes at the dealer level – but today, I want to turn the floor over to you.

A recent New York Times article, raised the notion of GM’s seemingly nonchalant responses to quality issues with their vehicles. It’s been my goal in covering this matter to be as objective possible and present as many primary sources as possible. Getting carried away with a story like this is easy, and in my opinion, the NYT does just that. There’s little to no context for the reader, and most people are unfamiliar with recall processes for any OEM, let alone GM.

The Times analysis of service bulletins was limited to General Motors. 

 

The article is centered around the letter from the NHTSA’s Frank Borris discussing GM’s responses to various safety recalls over recent years, a letter that apparently that came at GM executive Michael Robinson like a bolt out of the blue. Excluding the Cobalt ignition debacle, was GM truly surprised, rolling with the status quo until caught? Or are they particularly unique in their behavior?

Can we sit and point fingers at GM solely, or is this a common occurrence in daily operations at other manufacturers? My dealer experience ends with GM. Where does your experience begin? Work at a dealership with another automaker? Maybe you work in a similar engineering field, and have fought the wrath of bean counters? How do the other OEMs (Toyota, Ford, Honda…) mitigate product problems in practice, especially in the face of safety vs. costs? And how do they respond to field reports about product flaws?

Anonymous stories and tips can be emailed to Editors at ttac dot com

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Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799138  

DSC_9144
The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.

 

cobalt report 3
docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14

democrats.energycommerce.house.gov sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf

 

Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of “run,” and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[...]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

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GM Found Ignition Switch Issues In 2001 With Saturn, Updated Chronology, New Study Shows 303 No-Airbag Deaths [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-found-ignition-switch-issues-in-2001-with-saturn-updated-chonology-new-study-shows-303-no-airbag-deaths-w-full-text/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:45:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=771081 DSC_9022
General Motors released their updated chronology to the recall effecting the 2007 and earlier Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR; Pontiac G5 and Solstice; and Saturn Ion and Sky. Most of the new chronology works just to update the document with the expanded recall, but there’s a key update:

During the Saturn Ion development in 2001, a preproduction model had  an ignition cylinder problem that was caused by, you guessed it, “low detent plunger force,” the result being that it takes a low amount of effort to knock the key out of the “run” position.

The 2001 Saturn Ion pre-production report goes on to say that design changes to the ignition cylinder seemingly eliminated the issue. However, in 2003 a report documented an instance where an Ion was brought in for repair, and the technician servicing the car experienced a situation where the Ion stalled while driving, due to the key rotating “off.” The technician noted that “[t]he owner had several keys on the key ring,” and initially thought that “[t]he additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch.” The technician replaced the ignition cylinder, and the report was closed.

As we discussed in previous posts, Technical Service Bulletins (known by GM as Information Service Bulletins, or ISP for short) is the result of several field reports on a common issue, and is eventually entered into a database known as the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS for short. ISB’s are not found by a tech unless they are searching for a related issue. Thus, the 2003 example above is an early report that lead to ISB  #05-02-35-007.

Also outlined in the updated chronology deals with Saturn’s  sensing and diagnostic module (“SDM”), which differs from the Cobalt in that it is designed to stop recording once the engine of the car is no longer running. This means that crash data from a Saturn Ion SDM is not as conclusive as a Cobalt’s, which continues to record the ignition position during an accident in which the engine has been turned off.

Despite this, GM believes that the ignition cylinder issue has lead to eight accidents and four fatalities involving a Saturn Ion. At least three accidents involving the Chevrolet HHR can be linked; but no accidents involving a Pontiac Solstice or Saturn Sky have been found by GM. This brings the confirmed number of accidents to 31, and total number of deaths to 13.

The New York Times reports that in a study initiated by the Center for Automotive Safety (“CSA”), a private watchdog group, Friedman Research Corporation analyzed federal crash data and found 303 deaths linked to no airbag deployment in the recall-effected vehicles. The study does not link these no-airbag crashes to the ignition switch maladies, but questions why the NHTSA took so long to react to a mounting problem with the Cobalt and Ion.

In the letter to the NHTSA, CSA states the “NHTSA should have and could have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags are not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers.” And GM has began its own internal investigation, hiring former United States attorney for Northern Illinois, Anton Valukas to investigate.

“Research is underway at G.M. and the investigation of the ignition switch recall and the impact of the defective switch is ongoing,” Mr. Martin, the G.M. spokesman, said. “While this is happening, we are doing what we can now to ensure our customers’ safety and peace of mind. We want our customers to know that today’s G.M. is committed to fixing this problem in a manner that earns their trust.”

What have we learned through all of this? The engineers and technicians did their job, and GM had every piece of the puzzle; but as explained in the chronology, each piece was scattered about by an alphabet soup of committees. The review process let us down, both with Delphi’s quality control in the early switches and GM’s internal reaction to the situation. Further investigation will hopefully lead us to fully understanding the error in GM’s review process.

The full text of the updated chronology can be seen here.

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General Motors Expanding Ignition Cylinder Recall To Other Models, Releases Timeline On Failure [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/general-motors-expanding-ignition-cylinder-recall-to-other-models-releases-timeline-on-failure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/general-motors-expanding-ignition-cylinder-recall-to-other-models-releases-timeline-on-failure/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 22:19:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755257 2010-chevrolet-cobalt-pic-25714

“The process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been. We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.” – Alan Batey,  president of General Motors North America

Yesterday, GM expanded their ignition switch recall to include the other models mentioned in the #05-02-35-007A Technical Information Service Bulletin (“ISB”). These include:

  • 2005 – 2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2006 – 2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2003 – 2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2007  Saturn Sky

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also launching a probe into why GM took so long to issue a recall. GM also released their chronology of the ignition cylinder issue and years of investigation to TTAC, which we will break down for your digestion along with the full text, after the jump.

You can read the full text here. Be warned, it’s over 2,300 words long. Here’s a detailed summary of the events:

2004

GM became aware of the issue around the time of the Cobalt launch, when GM learned of one incident where a Cobalt was turn off when the key was inadvertently knocked out of run. GM was able to replicate the issue, and an engineering query was started. Known as the Problem Resolution Tracking System inquiry (“PRTS”), it’s GM’s process for studying defects, finding a solution to the defect, and deciding whether or not the solution should be implemented.

“Engineers believed that low key cylinder torque effort was an issue and considered a number of potential solutions. After consideration of the lead time required, cost, and effectiveness of each of these solutions, the PRTS was closed with no action.”

2005

More incidents were reported to GM of the Cobalt’s ignition cylinder being easily knocked out of “run.” In a PRTS opened in May of 2005, an engineer suggested that the Cobalt’s key slot be changed into a holeThough the initial proposal was approved, the change was later canceled. This lead to the first ISB  #05-02-35-007 in December 2005, which included all of the models (Except for the Saturn Sky, which had not been released just yet) listed above in the current recall , but only up to the 2006 Model Year (“MY”). GM was aware of accidents that had occured before the ISB was issued, and responded to them in the New York Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Daily Item (Sunbury, PA) according to the report.

The ISB was later updated to include MY 2007, and the MY 2007 Saturn Sky, which is the copy TTAC obtained last week.

“GM concluded in December 2005 that the Service Bulletin and field service campaign was the appropriate response to the reported incidents, given that the car’s steering and braking systems remained operational even after a loss of engine power, and the car’s engine could be restarted by shifting the car into either neutral or park.”


2006

The engineer responsible for the original ignition switch design signed off on the approval of design changes suggested by GM’s supplier, Delphi Mechatronics. The changes include, among other things, a new detent plunger design and stronger spring to increase the level of effort needed to twist the key between positions. The design was implemented by Delphi with out a change in part number, so GM did not have a hard date in which the design change made it to the effected models, but they believe it was for MY 2007. This is why ISB  #05-02-35-007 was amended to the  #05-02-35-007A in 2006 to include MY2007 models.

On August 1, 2006, GM opened a new PRTS when a Cobalt customer complained of stalling issues after receiving a new ignition cylinder. The PRTS was closed after the condition could not be replicated with 100 miles of driving.

2007

On March 29, 2007, GM employees met with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) to discuss occupant safety. In the meeting, the NHTSA informed the GM employees of a fatal accident that happened on July 29, 2005, where a 2005 Cobalt was involved in a front-end collision, and the vehicle’s sensing and diagnostic module (“SDM”) detected that the car was in the “accessory” position. Though GM’s legal department had opened a case in 2005, the GM employees at the NHTSA meeting were not aware of the incident.

GM tasked an investigating engineer to look into Cobalt crashes. By the end of 2007, GM found ten incidents where the car was claimed to have shut down prior to the accident. SDM was available for nine out of the ten crashes. In five of those crashes, the SDM reported that the ignition was in the “run” position, and four where in the “accessory” position.

2009

In Febuary 2009, a new PRTS was opened, and finally concluded with the design change in the Cobalt key suggested earlier. GM also met with Continental, the supplier of the SDM’s used in the Cobalt, in May. By this point, GM was aware of fourteen crashes, seven with the SDM reporting the key in the “run” position, and seven reporting the key in the “accessory” position. GM sent two Cobalt SDM’s that reported the ignition in the “run” position at the time of the accident to Continental for further testing. Continental revealed in the meeting that they had access to data that GM engineers did not, and found that in both SDM’s the sensing algorithm had been stopped while reporting the key in the “run” position. GM and Contentental discussed possible causes, but it is not known by TTAC at this time as to what those possible causes were.

2010

The Cobalt’s production was phased out as previously planned.

2011

GM launched an alphabet soup investigation using their Field Performance Evaluation (“FPE”) process, and assigned a  Field Performance Assessment Engineer (“FPAE”) to investigate a group of 2005-2007 Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5 crashes where the airbags had no deployed in a frontal crash.

The results were inconclusive at first, with several other driver-factors that came into play with some of the accidents (Gravel roads, high speeds, etc). The only thing confirmed in the FPE investigation was that “some of the ignitions were recorded as having been in the ‘run’ position, while others were recorded as having been in either the “accessory” or “off” positions, at the time of the crash.”

The FPAE was asked to investigate if other known issues, namely the known ignition cylinder issues, were to explain the airbag non-deployment in the 2007 and earlier vehicles.

2012

In May of 2012, the FPAE tested the ignition cylinders of Chevrolet Cobalts, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac G5s, and Saturn Ions, in model years ranging from 2003 through 2010, according to the report. The cars were sampled at a salvage yard, and tested for their “torque performance,” or how much torque it takes to rotate the key though its detents. They found in vehicles made from MY 2007 and before that several switches showed torque performance below what GM had originally specified.

GM also looked to see if changes to the Cobalt’s anti-theft system in 2008 had any effect on the design of ignition cylinder, but results were inconclusive. GM opened two studies using their “Red X” and “Design for Six Sigma” problem-solving methodologies to look at why the tested ignition cylinders’ torque performance differed so greatly between one another. The Red X investigation was closed in November of 2012. The Design for Six Sigma investigation closed in January 2013. Both were inconclusive.

2013

In April of 2013, the FPAE discovered that the torque performance of a new GM ignition switch purchased after 2010 differed greatly from one in a 2005 Cobalt. The FPAE also learned that the plunger and spring differed greatly, as well.

Shortly after that assessment, GM consulted an outside engineering resource to investigate all of their findings. It was confirmed that the MY2007 and older cars regularly failed to meet the torque performance that GM had specified; that there was a change in the ignition cylinder design in late-2006 by Delphi, the part supplier; and that those changes were responsible for the different torque performance difference in the MY2007 and older cars when compared to the later model cars.

With all analysis complete, the results were brought to GM’s Field Performance Evaluation Review Committee (“FPERC”) and the Executive Field Action Decision Committee (“EFADC”) on December 17th, 2013, and a second EFADC meeting on January 31, 2014, when the EFADC directed a safety recall.

Conclusion

GM’s report summarizes it best:

Between 2005 and the date of this submission, GM is currently aware of 23 frontal-impact crashes involving 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5s in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the airbags’ non-deployment. During that same timeframe, of these crashes, GM is currently aware of six that resulted in eight fatalities of frontal occupants. GM employees became aware of many of these crashes within a month of the dates on which they occurred. As GM learned of these crashes, employees undertook to investigate the underlying facts and circumstances to determine, among other things, why the airbags had not deployed. With respect to 22 of the 23 frontal-impact crashes referenced above, the data retrieved from the vehicles’ SDMs indicated that the ignition switches were in the “run” position in nine of the crashes, in the “accessory” position in twelve of the crashes, and in the “off” position in one of the crashes. Throughout this period, GM was involved in claims and lawsuits in which allegations were made regarding the ignition switch issue that is the subject of the recall. These 23 crashes are out of a total U.S. population of 619,122 vehicles subject to the pending recall.

 

What’s clear to me is this: GM was neglectful in dismissing the issue so early on. While the design was repaired by Delphi in a reasonable amount of time, the implementation into the older models should not have been ignored for so long. This is where GM dropped the ball, in my opinion. The key design change was not enough, only bandaiding the fault of the ignition cylinder.

So, here is the question for you, B&B. Where is GM irresponsible?

Were they justified in delaying their full investigation with the FPAE until 2011, 7 years after finding the issue? And was their investigation timely? Delphi solved the problem in late-2006, why did it take GM until 2013 to confirm the changes and move forward with the recall?

[Ed. Note: Title updated with full text mention]

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GM Adds 588,000 Vehicles To Ignition Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-adds-588000-vehicles-to-ignition-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-adds-588000-vehicles-to-ignition-recall/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 14:41:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754921 2007 Saturn Ion Red Line

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.

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GM Knew About Deadly Defect For Nearly A Decade, Dismissed It In Technical Service Bulletin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 02:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750297 cobalt TSB1
GM is recalling 778,000 units of the 2005 through 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 over an issue where the ignition cylinder inadvertently turns out of the “Run” position, there by turning the car’s main electrical systems “off”. These systems include the engine, anti-lock brakes, and airbag systems. According to USA Today, GM knew of six deaths, and twenty-two other wrecks related to the ignition failure, and was aware of the defect since 2004.

The recall was issued last week to replace the ignition cylinder on effected models, but the problem is, GM knew about this failure early in 2006 in a Technical Service Bulletin, or TSB for short. In fact, the Cobalt and G5 have had two more ignition related service bulletins in the last few years, which TTAC has obtained.

Upon examining the full text of the 2006 TSB #05-02-35-007A, which dismisses the issue as a mechanical fault almost immediately, TTAC learned that dealers are instructed to adjust customer’s habits before carrying out the apparent fix, which involves changing the shape of the key ring design on the factory key.

According to court documents sourced by USA Today, GM is being sued by the estate of Brooke Melton, who died on March 10, 2010 when her Cobalt lost electrical power and she lost control of the car. This happened despite Melton’s car being returned to her from the dealer after ignition switch repairs, according to the Melton estate’s lawyer, Lance Cooper.

Lance Cooper also added that Melton’s car was not equipped with the modified key GM used for the TSB #05-02-35-007A repair, despite having just left the dealership for ignition cylinder repair.

Full text of TSB#05-02-35-007A and a full understanding of TSBs below:

#05-02-35-007A : Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical System and No DTCs – (Oct 25, 2006)

Subject: Information on Inadvertent Turning of Key Cylinder, Loss of Electrical Systems and No DTCs [DTC stands for Diagnostic Trouble Codes]

Models:

  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2005–2007 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2005–2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada Only)
  • 2007 Pontiac G5
  • 2006–2007 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2003–2007 Saturn Ion
  • 2007 Saturn Sky

This bulletin is being revised to add a model year. Please discard Corporate Bulletin Number 05-02-35-007 (Section 02 — Steering).

There is potential for the driver to inadvertently turn off the ignition due to low ignition key torque/effort.

The concern is more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and/or heavy key chain. In these cases, this condition was documented and the driver’s knee would contact the key chain while the vehicle was turning and the steering column was adjusted all the way down. This is more likely to happen to a person who is short, as they will have the seat positioned closer to the the steering column.

In cases that fit this profile, question the customer thoroughly to determine if this may [be] the cause. The customer should be advised of this potential and should take steps to prevent it — such as removing unessential items from their key chain.

Engineering has come up with an insert for the key ring so that it goes from a “slot” design to a hole design. As a result, the key ring cannot move up and down in the slot any longer – it can only rotate on the hole. In addition, the previous key ring has been replaced with a smaller, 13 mm (0.5 in) design. This will result in the keys not hanging as low as in the past.

Part Number: 15842334
Description: Cover, Dr Lk & Ign Lk Key

This is one of many TSBs related to ignition problems with the Cobalt, among other GM models. Most of the issues were lesser related to the ignition cylinder itself, and more to do with the key being locked into the ignition cylinder when the shifter’s neutral safety switch failed, locking the key in.

But the first line in the TSB description states that there is a fault with the low amount of effort or torque needed to twist the key out of the “Run” position. The method advises by the TSB is to tell the driver to reduce the number of items on the key chain, and presumably adjust their driver position to avoid contact. It’s a fair mention, since having an excess amount of keys on a key chain can wear out the key and tumblers, which would mean it would be harder to ‘unlock’ the cylinder.

But in this case, it sounds more like the weight or size of the key chain can allow the key to back out of the “Run” position, thereby powering down all major driving systems. With the engine down, power steering is gone, and power brakes now only have a short reservoir of vacuum left — enough for one, maybe two pumps of the pedal. With the key out of the “Run” position, safety systems like the anti-lock brakes and airbags are no longer powered up.

In the worst circumstances, such as what was documented in the TSB, it’s easy to see how this would cause an accident. No matter who you are, or what kind of driver you suspect you are, the situation is very dangerous. Even with engine stalling issues for other vehicles, at least the anti-lock brakes and airbag system likely would be powered if there was an accident.

There’s different methods in which suggested repairs are sent to a customer, there are TSB’s (GM calls them Interstate Bulletins, specifically), and there are “Campaigns,” otherwise known as voluntary recalls. When a vehicle comes into a GM dealer, they check the General Motors Vehicle Information System, or GMVIS, for Campaigns.

Now, here’s the kicker, Techincal Service Bulletins are not displayed in the GMVIS report. TSBs are not required repairs. These are not recalls, and customers are not informed of TSBs, and they are only checked for by a service tech when there is a related repair. In this case, the customer would have to bring a car in with ignition problems for a tech to find the TSB.

This is standard practice for the industry, and it works this way for almost every manufacturer. But, whether or not something of this nature should have been left to a TSB and not a Campaign is another issue.

cobalt tsb key

Poorly Photoshopped representation of the suggested 2006 key fix.

The hard solution in 2006 was to change the shape of the key ring hole in the key, from a slot to a hole. This would give the key chain less leverage on the edge of the key, reducing the key chains ability to rotate the key in the cylinder. 

Below is a photo gallery of related TSBs with the initial problem description, along with the full description of the NHTSA Campaign issued last week.. The ignition interlock issues were repaired by diagnosing and repairing the shifter assembly. It is unknown at this time what ignition cylinder issue Melton had when she brought in her Cobalt for repair.

cobalt TSB 3 cobalt TSB 2 cobalt TSB1 2006 CHEVROLET COBALT   Safercar   National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  NHTSA  (1)

 

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Question Of The Day: Have We Passed The Peak Of Cheap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/question-of-the-day-have-we-passed-the-peak-of-cheap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/question-of-the-day-have-we-passed-the-peak-of-cheap/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 15:25:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461129

The good old days of late summer 2009.

It was a great time to buy a new car. Monthly new car sales in North America had plummeted to under 10 million units.  Access to financing seemed to be near impossible for a lot of consumers. Brands were orphaned. Leasing collapsed. Banks were picky. The future was uncertain and… raw materials were cheap.

It was a good time to buy new at a deep, deep discount.  Has that time passed?

What got me thinking about this was a late model car I was using for my auction travels. A popular car. One that sells like hotcakes. Yet it looks like nearly every interior component within it has been parts binned, deconteted and cheaped out to epic proportions.

It offered good fuel economy, a nice radio display, and several hundred pounds of plastics that were in varying forms. Could the car get any cheaper and remain marketable?

I had my doubts. From the wafer fin door panels. To the glossy, Tonka like display of the center dashboard. It reeked of cheap to the point where an hour inside of it felt like a petrochemical bath.

As I went to that evening sale, I thought,  ”I wonder if this material is cheaper to buy than cardboard boxes?” It was an honest question because everybody uses this cheap stuff. From the mightiest of manufacturers to the most irrelevant of niche players. The hollowness of material quality and feel for anything 20k or under seems to be an epidemic of cheap these days.

Yet everything costs more. Reconsider those MSRP’s for a moment. There was a time not to long ago when a $13,000 Yaris, Versa, Cobalt, Aveo, Rio, and PT Cruiser were publicized on a paperish pulp we used to know as a newspaper. Remember those?

Now a few of these names, along with their far more marketable descendants are venturing hard towards the $20,000 mark. There a few discounts. Maybe even a rebate or two.  But the hard march to the next big round number seems to be the new tune of 2012. A loaded Camry can now retail for well over $30k. The Lexus LS400h can now cost nearly $100k.  We’re talking two decent foreclosed houses in the ex-urbs here folks!

This brings the TTAC readers to our question for today. Have we passed the peak of cheap? Are we bound to a new world of car buying where commuter cars only feel cheap and the ‘nip and tuck’ of cost containment has run the course?

What says you?

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Review: Chevy Cobalt, Brazilian Spec http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-chevy-cobalt-brazilian-spec/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/review-chevy-cobalt-brazilian-spec/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2012 20:14:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=426651 GM do Brasil has been having many problems. Though dearly beloved by many Latin Americans, in Brazil its image has been severely tarnished. When GM promised a slew of new products that would substitute its ageing line, many doubted it. In fact, many doubted GM had it in them anymore. Like a phoenix, GM is being reborn. The new product onslaught is in full swing. First off the bat was the Cruze. Now, Chevrolet is really starting to put on offer its mission-critical small car, the Cobalt. Will it be enough?

First a little background. After a very prosperous and promising 90s, it seemed GM had called it quits in the 00s. Extreme penny pinching eliminated but the most basic forms of engineering and development. The interiors were the most hideous on this side of a Trabant. You get the picture.

GM managed to alienate much of their fan base. GM hit record growth. As they hit lower price points they grew and then grew some more. Even in a market like Brazil, so sensitive to prices, inevitably GM hit a wall. Sales started to fall. People caught on that they were buying the same tired car from 10 years ago. The competition improved by leaps and bounds. GM not only stalled, they seemed to go back. Most people buying the General’s cars were doing so because of the ‘deal’, not because they liked the car. How would GM climb back out the hole it had dug?

To find out, I headed on down to my local friendly dealer to see and drive the Cobalt. To gather some impressions that I’ll now share with all of you.

What first hit me was the back. Big. The Cobalt sports one the largest trunks in Brazil (always good for a people who are big into, well, trunk. It’s a shame then that its space is not all that useful. Though it has great capacity, a lot of this capacity comes from the lid being very tall. As the car is relatively narrow, you may just have to put your bags side by side instead of one on top of the other.

In Brazil, the car is sold with a 1.4 L engine, which is good for 97hp on Brazilian gas or 102hp on ethanol. On the sugarcane juice it puts out 13kgfm of torque. This all means that if you want the car to go, you’ll have to row your gears with competence and keep the revs high. This car weighs little more than one metric ton and this taxes the little engine. Imagine this large car, loaded with baggage in the huge trunk and 3 good size teenagers in the back. Daddy will have to plan his passing and merging gingerly.

GM talks about 0-100km/h times of less than 12 seconds. My highly scientific test methods, laying on the accelerator, and keeping it floored until the shrieks of the salesman makes me slow down, make me believe in something around 14 to 15 seconds. If GM is to be believed, this car will, with a backwind and an endless straightaway at sea level, get to 170km/h. The torque available for such a small engine is nice and it feels like that there is some at lower rpms. Like Americans often times repeat, there is no replacement for displacement and miracles are rare to come by. My short test drive showed me that you will need to rev, but this little engine does not rev as freely as other small engines I’ve tested. It becomes gruff and complains as the revs go up.

Alas, my test drive was limited. Worried that my unwilling partner was going to hit me after a few short bursts of acceleration, I couldn’t test it in the curvies or broken pavement. If you believe what the press is writing though, it does feel solid. It drives like a big car, with all the good and bad that entails. According to the press, it does do curves nicely enough. My impression is that at a sedate pace it will be comfortable enough. It rides on 15′ wheelies.  The tires are 195/65, which is good as sidewalls thinner than that become very tiring on Brazilian roads due to bad maintenance.

Inside is where this car really shines. The seats and even the instrument cluster have been seen before in the Agile. However, the seating position is much more straightforward and less convoluted than in said car. There is good head and shoulder room. Your legs will not bump against anything either. Very good. As this platform is all new and global, and was done taking into account that new thing called ergonomics, it’s easy to find a comfortable position (without having to twist your spine like in the Agile and other GM small cars heretofore). The greatest ergonomic mishap is that the power windows’ controls are too far back on the arm rest. Thus, you’ll be forced to get your hand in all kinds of weird shapes to access the switches.

The seats themselves apparently are a little bigger than those found in other cars of this segment in Brazil. They also seemed comfortable enough. They have a nice wavy pattern on them and manage to escape the black on grey theme found in almost all other small cars in Brazil. The dashboard and door panels use plastic a touch above the competitors which is nice for GM in Brazil (head bow to you). Like the seats, they also managed to get some greenish and brown hues into the plastic making them much more visually pleasing and soothing than those in competitors.

Another nice touch is that GM has used bits and pieces from the Cruze in the Cobalt. This gives it a nicer overall feel and will please all but the most soft-plastic fanatic. The turn stalk, for example, is the same one found in the Cruze. The instrument cluster is like in the Sonic reviewed by Steven Lang. Inspired by sport bikes it is different from the norm. My only gripe is the needle of the tach. Seems like a really cheesy piece of very cheap red plastic. Few people will notice or care though.

The exterior design is pleasing. At first glance, Brazilians will be forgiven if they just think it’s an Agile sedan. But pay close attention and you’ll see that the Chevrolet family truck-like fascia has been softened. The little curves make all the difference and while on the Agile it is ugly, on this car it works. The greenhouse is short, much more so than in the main competitors Logan and Versa, but it follows the spirit of the times and most people will mindlessly sacrifice visibility for style. The sides as slab-like. This is fine with me as I’ve said it here before, I like boxy cars. However, the tall cabin and seating position, plus the relatively low hood and very high trunk lid make parking sensors almost an obligation on the car.

Taking it all in, design-wise there are just two ill-resolved issues. One is the trunk lid. It’s very tall. This characteristic is punctuated by having a crease run down the middle of it. This visually spikes it up even more in a place where I think it would benefit from being flatter. There is another odd crease that starts out in the back of the car and makes its way through to the back door where it plunges down and just dies. It appears to be there just to break some of the slabness. However, the execution was clumsy and, especially on lighter-colored cars, it makes it seem like the car’s been hit. The first time I saw Cobalt in the wild, the first thing I noticed was what seemed like a huge dent in the back door. No, it’s just that styling effect.

All in all a good, professional design. A little boring, but sedan buyers in this segment in Brazil are boring, I mean conservative. The few pieces of chrome here and there sophisticate it a little, the proportions are generally ok. At the price point, you really can’t complain. Much more of a looker than the Renault Logan that, with the exception of me and a few ex-Soviet bloc expats, nobody likes. The other main competitor is the Logan-in-Japanese-drag, the Nissan Versa (Sunny in America), which is very Asian. Which is good or bad depending on your personal tastes.

So now we come to pricing. Let’s consider that, roughly, 1, 80 Brazilian reais equals one American dollar. This cars starts at $39,980 (US$22,200). This gets you the basic LS trim, which gives you AC, hydraulic steering, power locks and a pocketknife key (don’t ask me why but this is a big deal in Brazil and GM proudly emphasizes this, I mean on a VW Gol you can pay extra to get one!). There is the intermediary trim and the top of the line LTZ that starts at R$45,980 (US$25,500) and adds special alloy wheels, power windows (only front doors), double airbag, ABS, fog lights in the front, trip computer and CD player. Sadly, this makes this car very competitive in Brazil. In our not-so-little-but-still-very-warped market this makes the Cobalt really attractive, GM predicts sales of 3,500 cars a month, and I believe it. Especially after the market knocks off at least R$2,000 from the basic one and maybe 3 or 4,000 from the LTZ.

So like the Sonic previewed by Steven Lang, two big hits in a row for GM on TTAC. Must be some kind of record.

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New or Used: Avoid “Titanium” Grade Depreciation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-avoid-titanium-grade-depreciation/#comments Wed, 14 Dec 2011 16:37:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422360

 

Shawn writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I recently asked the Best and Brightest for help regarding my friend’s car buying dilema, but now I’m in one of my own! I am looking to get rid of my 2006 Mazda5 GT, which has been quite problematic. I can no longer tolerate the frequent trips to the shop. Its got about 125,000km on it, and I’ve been getting offers ranging from $6000-8000 for it on trade. The cars I am considering are in the compact to mid-size class, but there are benefits to each car, and I can’t seem to make up my mind. I am seeking a car with decent fuel economy that is fairly engaging to drive. However, I DO NOT want a harsh ride. The GTA is filled with pot holed roads, and I know the stiff ride would get tiresome. Manual transmission is preferred, but not necessary. I do carry four people occasionally, so cross out any coupes. On the Mazda I’ve taken quite a hit in the residual value, so this time around, I am looking to buy something that is a couple of years old. That way, someone else takes the largest depreciation hit. Here is the list so far:
  1. 2007 or 2008 Acura CSX w/premium package and manual tranny: Essentially a Civic with a nicer front and rear end, leather, a bit more sound deadening, and the motor from the RSX. Really fun to drive, but the manuals that I’m seeing in the GTA carry a price premium… The 2008 that I test drove with 58,000km is going for $18,900. At this point, does it not make sense to just buy a brand new one for $23,000?
  2. 2008 Honda Civic EX-L w/ manual: The CSX, while it only has 15 more hp, does feel noticeably more powerful than the Civic. My main problem with the Civic is that it feels a little gutless on the highway. However, it does deliver great fuel economy. Going in the $15-17,000 range.
  3. 2007 or 2008 VW Rabbit: These are surprisingly cheap in the GTA… There are quite a few 2007 and 2008s with low mileage going in the $12-15,000 range. I don’t find this car as engaging to drive as the Acura, and the VW shifter just doesn’t compare to the Honda’s. I do love the “solid” VW feel, but I am concerned about the reliability of the Volkswagen. Fuel mileage is also disappointing. Jettas carry a price premium and I prefer the hatch.
  4. 2007 or 2008 Ford Fusion SEL: This is the lazy commuter choice. It was surprisingly good to drive, but I am not a huge fan of the looks, which I find to be a little bland and cheap looking. I would be looking at a 4 banger with auto in this case, because the manuals are just about impossible to find. Quite cheap as well, with low mileage examples going in the $13-16,000 range. Not the greatest on gas either.
  5. 2007 or 2008 Honda CR-V: In Canada, only the LX was offered with front-wheel drive. If you step up to the EX, you need to get AWD, which I am hearing is a little problematic. Apparently, there is a grinding issue in reverse? Either way, I had this car as a rental for a week when the Mazda was in the shop and found it to be quite easy to live with. The steering and brakes were just right and the car was roomy. Downsides? LOUD on the highway, and the ride is a little harsh. Fuel mileage is so-so. Holds it’s value really well, so we’re talking $18-24,000.
Lastly, 2012 Ford Focus Titanium: Ford has really outdone themselves with this one. I found that the car felt like it was worth the admittedly steep price tag. The car has a refinement to it that is not matched in the compact class, and I found the MyFordTouch to be pretty easy to use. Downsides? Rear seat legroom is a joke. Also, I am assuming that this car is not going to hold it’s value well, since most Fords do not. Probably best to wait a couple of years for a lightly used one?
Well, Best and Brightest? What to do? Am I forgetting something that I should be driving? I have intentionally left out the TSX and GTI as I do not want to purchase a vehicle that takes premium when regular is already at $1.38/L.  Help Sajeev and Steve!

Steve Answers:

I used to live in upstate New York which also has rather nasty roads. So I can appreciate your desire to couple comfort with sportiness.

Back when I lived there in the early 90′s, the car to bridge both divides was a Volvo. 240, 740, 940, etc. All those bricks were underpowered. But they offered excellent durability in a nasty climate and a feel for the road that was unique unto anything short of a Mercedes W124.

So what up today? It depends on where your comfort and sportiness intersect. Everything you mentioned would be brutal for me after 50k miles. I would opt for a midsize vehicle that can offer a nice thrust of acceleration, a healthy level of comfort, and a good feel for the road.

My choice? 2007 Honda Accord EX with Leather, V6 and a five-speed. If you can’t find a good one (and yes, that is a tough find in this market), I would just enjoy a four-cylinder version. The Acura versions are overpriced and the price for Subaru Outbacks and Foresters in the northern country makes them poor values compared to a new purchase of the same model.

If you are willing to buy new… ask Sajeev. That’s his domain.

Sajeev Answers:

I can see why you’d want the Focus Titanium, but depreciation on a top drawer compact (just about ANY of them) will be worse than a middle of the road unit. So you should steer clear of Titanium, wait a couple of years for them to show up on the used car market. A new Focus SEL is a wiser move, and you should also test drive the Hyundai Elantra and Sonata…just for funzies!

More to the point, anything can be fun with a touch of aftermarket suspension bits. Sure, the last-gen Focus is fairly hideous, but all the SVT/aftermarket goodies just bolt right up! Ditto a non-SS Chevy Cobalt with all the suspension bits from that “Hot One.”Relatively speaking, of course: none of these modifications will hurt the ride enough to upset your commute to work. Probably.

Well, that’s only food for thought. Also consider the Mazda 6, last generation. They aren’t the best on gas, but I truly enjoy driving them. You might too.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Quote Of The Day: We Get It Starting Now Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/quote-of-the-day-we-get-it-starting-now-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/quote-of-the-day-we-get-it-starting-now-edition/#comments Fri, 14 May 2010 21:27:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=356622

Look at this car, it’s horrible. How did this get through so many people?

We’ve all thought something along these lines when we first sat in a Chevy Cobalt, but few GM employees would ever say it out loud to a reporter. At least they wouldn’t until a much-improved replacement was waiting in the wings. But because the Cruze launches this year, GM execs like VP of global vehicle engineering Karl Stracke can bash on the old Cobalt to his heart’s content, knowing the Detroit News will dutifully report it as a sign that GM “gets it.”

GM’s North American honcho Mark Reuss even goes as far as to tell the DetN

We have never really built good small cars. But we are now.

And though it’s heartening to hear that GM’s top brass are regularly driving and critiquing their company’s (hopefully non-prepped) vehicles, this ritual penitence is as old a trick for GM as the “happy days are here again” television ad format. Until those Cruzes hit the streets, sell well, and don’t have the problems their Korean cousins did, GM still hasn’t “really built good small cars,” as Mr Reuss so eloquently puts it.

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GM To Recall 1.3 Million Cobalt/G5s http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/gm-to-recall-1-3-million-cobaltg5s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/gm-to-recall-1-3-million-cobaltg5s/#comments Tue, 02 Mar 2010 14:52:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347161

We at TTAC, (well, me, only) have said that since everyone is raining a storm down on Toyota other recalls are slipping by without equal scrutiny. So when I read this article, I thought it fair, in the interests of journalism, to blog it. Not because of who it is, but the reasoning around it.

The BBC reports that General Motors are going to recall 1.3 million vehicles which are affected by the power steering problem which the NHTSA has been investigating. This problem has been linked to 14 crashes. The vehicles affected are the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Pontiac G5, Pontiac Pursuit and Pontiac 4. Some of these recalled cars were also sold in Canada and Mexico. The fault was that at low speeds, greater steering effort may be required but that the cars still could be “safely controlled” (try telling that to the 14 people who crashed). The steering part which failed, apparently, came from a supplier which is part owned by Toyota, but “Maximum” Bob Lutz, naturally, accepted the blame on behalf of GM. He said “This is a case where, yes, we would blame a partially Toyota-owned supplier.”. He went on to say that the supplier had not met “all requirements for reliability and durability”. Hang on a cotton picking minute…

Are you saying that GM didn’t supply a drawing and specification to the supplier? And if they didn’t, GM didn’t approve the supplier’s unit? Didn’t GM perform any quality control on the units delivered by the supplier? This sounds awfully like another company. GM’s Vice President of Quality, Jamie Hresko said (via Reuters) that ” After our in-depth investigation, we found that is a condition that takes time to develop. It tends to occur in older models out of warranty,”. While I’m not expecting a full congressional hearing or a suspension of sales of cars, it will be interesting to see if a similar amount of media scrutiny will ensue over this issue. Or will the press file this under “dog bites man”?

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