Saturn Ion Steering Woes Focus Of NHTSA Probe

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

One of the handful of models already under recall by General Motors over a defective ignition switch, the Saturn Ion faces additional scrutiny by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over failures traced to the vehicle’s electric power steering.

Automotive News reports the NHTSA received 846 complaints from owners of 2004 through 2007 Ions over the steering system, alleging a sudden loss of power steering due to a build-up of brush debris combined with oily material disrupting the system’s motor’s operation. The same issue affected the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, as well — all three shared the same steering system — leading to 16 crashes, two injuries, and a 2010 recall by GM of over 1 million vehicles.

However, the Ion was not included in the 2010 recall, nor did the NHTSA force GM to do so citing lack of sufficient evidence, moves National Legal and Policy Center president Peter Flaherty had trouble understanding as noted in a letter to CEO Mary Barra written this week:

We cannot understand the delay in recalling Saturn Ions, particularly in light of your recent statement that the ignition switch recall “took too long.” You also stated “terrible things happened.” An immediate recall of Saturn Ions will prevent additional “terrible things” from happening.

Though GM offered Ion owners a warranty covering the system for 10 years or 100,000 miles in lieu of a recall, 382,000 Ions would be included in the additional recall.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Mar 21, 2014

    Power steering or electric steering going out is a serious problem, I've had two older cars in the past that would stall and shut off their power steering\brakes, scary stuff, at least it was at lower speeds though. It didn't matter if it was FF or FR. Is quality control issues like this why new ideas in the automotive world concern me, the ideas themselves sound good half the time (self driving cars), but the automotive world knack for hasty executions (Most Electric cars) often cause serious issues.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Mar 21, 2014

    The electric power steering boost cut out without warning on my '09 Ford Escape Hybrid. Research indicates this also happens to non-hybrid Escapes and other Ford models that use the same or similar electric steering. A few weeks ago Ford issued a TSB for replacing the steering torque sensor. But, most of these failures, including mine, have involved the very costly replacement of the whole steering column assembly. This failure is by far most common on '08 and '09 model years. Ford has not yet issued a recall, perhaps because not enough of their customers have died as a result of this design defect.

  • Gglockster Gglockster on Mar 22, 2014

    The steering fault happened to my then lady friend's Ion. She was on her local commute in the Northern Virginia suburbs and basically she no longer had the sufficient strength to turn the wheel. She was able to get it into a mall parking lot, since rolling resistance is less. Her probability of an accident about 20 percent. If she had been on a more major road, such as the Beltway (which she had just exited 10 minutes earlier), then her probability of accident greater than 5o percent. I don't know if GM fixed her lock problem at the same time. All GM would admit to was replacing the electronic power steering and extending her warranty. The repair was free. To me it would be kind of stupid for GM to not also fixing the steering wheel lock problem at the same time, since it was by then a known problem. I know about the steering problem because she called me to help her out. I thought maybe she had busted a power steering hose but was perplexed at how suddenly she lost steering control, but there were no fluid leaks underneath (I didn't know it was electric steering). Since the wheel would turn if I put all my weight on it, something hadn't locked and nothing looked physically broken. I told her to write GM to get reimbursed for the tow but I am not sure if she ever did.

  • Mikey748 Mikey748 on Mar 23, 2014

    Did you see thier pics on Facebook? Ed and BS show thier true colors allright, and they are white with a big meatball in the middle. Pictures show E.D. and BS hobnobbing with top guys of all Japanese automakers, last week in Tokyo. All you can eat GT-Rs and LFAs. Effing unbelievable. Meanwhile, TTAC has to get thier test cars from Alamo.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Mar 23, 2014

      Mikey748, maybe they showed their true colors because they lived through the Detroit Bad era. Am I considered biased because I drove Detroit's finest for more than four decades but switched to Toyota in 2008? How about when I bought for the wife a 2012 Grand Cherokee that was built by the UAW and imported from Detroit?