Why Is GM Not Recalling The Solstice And Sky For Airbag Failures?
In July, we learned the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky may be at a risk of fire due to a blower motor issue that caused the recall of the Hummer H3. This may not be the only part that should be recalled. Many of GM’s roadsters are suffering from a defective sensor which could prevent the passenger airbag from deploying in an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaint database holds a total of 670 complaints for the Sky and Solstice relating to various failures. The item that stood out most among these complaints: an airbag sensor, which is called the passenger presence sensor. This sensor measures the weight of the passenger and decides whether the airbag should be enabled. Of the total 670 Solstice and Sky complaints, this faulty sensor accounts for 383 of them — or 57 percent of all complaints.
Once the passenger presence sensor fails, it stores a code in the SRS module and lights up the “Service Air Bag” light. The airbag on the passenger side becomes disabled once this light is illuminated. This can pose an increased risk of injury to the passenger in an accident.
While the documentation I found from similar GM recalls stated that only the passenger side airbag will be disabled, some mechanics — like the one above — state that the whole system could become non-functional.
Searching through the complaints database, I was able to find at least 18 cases that stated the issue was reported to General Motors. Some of the cases show that the issue was diagnosed and repaired under warranty, with some owners replacing the part three times.
Damaged PPS Sensor Grid
Many of the cars could be driving around with a faulty airbag system as some owners are not willing to pay $850-900 for the repair once the car is out of warranty. The main issue is the sensor grid installed in the seat can fold, kink, or break and become inoperable. A similar type of grid was used in the Cadillac CTS and was shown to experience failure in that model as well. The 2005-2007 Cadillac CTS was recalled for the exact issue even though only 158 complaints were recorded. The data becomes even more confusing when you look at rate of complaints for the issue by model. The CTS received 158 complaints for 173,387 vehicles sold while the Solstice and Sky received 383 complaints for 91,146 vehicles sold, which puts the complaint rate at 0.9 per thousand sold for the CTS and 4.2 per thousand sold for the Solstice and Sky.
The complaints have been escalated to various government officials with one even being sent to Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His office acknowledged the letter but forwarded it to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) instead of the NHTSA and no further records exist. One of the complaints that the NHTSA responded to stated that they did not find enough evidence to perform an investigation while another stated they were backlogged with letters and gave the complainant a generic response that stated they would investigate if necessary. The original complaint for the second response was sent in January of 2012 but only received a response in August of that year.
The complaints are spread out over all the years that the Solstice and Sky were produced and the part number and design for the part appears to have remained the same. GM could be hesitant to redesign the part as it may place the blame on them, but it is something that needs to be addressed as I’m sure there are many more owners out there dealing with the issue.
The NHTSA seems has received plenty of complaints but has failed to launch an investigation. This is not surprising as an audit released earlier this year showed that many of the people that are assigned to look at airbag incidents have no knowledge or training in the matter.
Mark Reuss spoke in a conference earlier today on the GM ignition switch settlement and, according to The Detroit News, he stated: “When you make mistakes you accept them. You take necessary steps to make sure you never make the same mistakes ever again.” I would love to see Mr. Reuss live up to his word and hope that he follows through and fixes a very apparent safety issue before it reaches a tragic stage like the ignition switch crisis.
[PPS Grid Image Credit: TomatoSoup/SolsticeForum.com, Dash and Sensor/Cushion Image Credits: General Motors]
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