By on September 18, 2015

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.

complaint

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

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.

SensorComparo

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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24 Comments on “Why Is GM Not Recalling The Solstice And Sky For Airbag Failures?...”


  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    Not in the budget. Sorry.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The Sky and Solstice have such high perceived value by owners that they’re not really driven anyway. They sit in the garage next to the black Fleetwood or purple Impala SS. Optionally, an 02 Thunderbird or SSR could be present as well.

    The one I’d want is the GT Coupe rare Solstice, but with Sky styling. The Solstice looked Aztek-cheap, while the Sky was Vauxhall/Opel Euro-slick.

    • 0 avatar

      The comments for many of the complaints match that exactly. A lot of them stated that they parked the car for the winter and then noticed the light go off after driving it for a few weeks in the spring. The average mileage at failure for the 383 cases was 41841 miles. The lowest reading was 1200 miles while the highest reading on the list was 125000 miles.

      The coupe version looks much better than any of them but it’s a shame they only made 1200 of the coupes and all in the Pontiac bodywork.

    • 0 avatar
      SomeGuy

      Perceived is the right word. The owner base is very delusional about how rare the car is. I even think the coupe owners are delusional too. My car has 80k miles on it, and frankly it isn’t enough.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      The coupe Solstice is appreciating in value at insane levels.

      I saw one go for $45K recently. The dealer I got my G8 from had FIVE of Solstice Coupes, 3 GXPs, 2 of them manually. They were willing to “make a deal” with me on one but I had just bought the G8 and didn’t have the appetite for a car payment.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      I saw my first coupe this summer outside of Portland, OR. Probably the best looking coupe that GM ever produced.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Pontiac and Saturn are dead. So are a few of their customers.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Great question. Have a 07 Sky Red Line. Not a peep, but GM was happy to take my money to replace this sensor. $400+ part from the dealer. I should have used Google, because you can DIY for a cheaper price. Oh well, stupid tax on my end.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks! While looking at the parts I noticed that the module with the sensor and cushion can be found for about $350 online but since it needs to be calibrated it would still require a visit to the dealer or a shop that has the TechII which is another $100-150 so even DIY you are still looking at $450-500 total cost

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    You would think that GM would just fix them in light of the tons of bad PR and penalties to date over such behavior. This could be spun into at least a semi-positive thing by publicly erring on the side of the customer. I guess the beancounters are still wielding too much control. This will bite them in the butt, again, like all the past times. The American business model is so damn short sighted.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    why? Because the NHTSA hasn’t forced them to yet, that’s why.

  • avatar
    gator marco

    We had a 2007 Pontiac Torrent that soon after warranty ran out, started exhibiting the passenger airbag issue. We’d used the dealer for most of our maintenance, and every time we wrote up an airbag issue, it came back as “the mechanic couldn’t find an error code” or “maybe it was just wet from a car wash.”
    Went to another dealer, and just as I described the error: yup, the seat sensor. $850 for parts and labor.
    We didn’t get it fixed, and sold the car a while later.
    Gee, somehow, there are no more GM vehicles in our driveway. Strange.

  • avatar

    This occupant weight classification sensor problem isn’t solely a Kappa malady. I’ve noticed it quite frequently on roadsters and I’ve been told its a side effect of people putting too much pressure on the seat itself (i.e. your knee) either in a certain way or over multiple occurances.

    I would say a good half or more of these I see run at the sale have an SRS light on. $350-450 if you’re lucky.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Maybe the GM technicians are kneeling on people’s seats while they’re changing out the ignition switches.

    • 0 avatar

      I just took a peak at Manheim and see a few with AS-IS marking. I checked the CR reports and did not see a metric for SRS lights but a few of them did have engine light-on marked which may be an all encompassing term

      • 0 avatar

        Depends how good the CR writer is and this varies GREATLY by auction and individual, but generally speaking, a condition report is quite accurate in terms of the big obvious idiot lights (CEL, SRS, TRAC/ABS/STAB) simply because they’re so prominent. And remember on a Kappa car, you have to clear the Info Center display of any warnings to view the odometer. Anyhow, I’ve always noticed warning lights being noted on a CR, sometimes even announced if its a fleet/lease or manufacturer’s car.

        I have noticed a trend towards announcing the SRS light more on certain cars, especially roadsters as these all tend to be pressure pads and all end up being just north of the $500 cutoff for an arbitration/PSI/whatever.

  • avatar
    wmba

    There’s been a Solstice sitting in a driveway two miles from me for about 8 years now. Never seems to move. Not much fun to drive, and of the same inspirational quality as the Cobalt that Lutz managed to stamp into both of them during his time at GM. Maximum Bob, maximum mouth. All the time.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I hike with a woman that has a Sky. I’ve seen her drive it once, and we have convertible weather all year here. Every other time we’ve gone she has shown up in her previous generation Escape.

  • avatar

    Wow, nothing from DeadWeight yet…

    GM has a golden opportunity to show they’re not the same company as ten years ago by fixing the issue at no cost to the owner. Period.

    Every one of these issues they choose to ignore is another pothole in their road back to the kind of respectability they enjoyed fifty years ago.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    seems like a simple, but fragile and faulty design.

    if it was my car? id take the thing out, turn it over, shave or melt some of the plastic to get to the circuit and solder some wires with extra slack to bridge the gap. spray on some insulating material to cover the work, and call it done.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Maybe it would be easier to just bridge the wires on the sensor’s plug with a resistor that always tells the airbags the seat is occupied. You’d probably need to buckle the seatbelt too, to avoid warning lights.

  • avatar
    Ianw33

    I am really surprised there hasnt been some sort of extended airbag system recall on more GM Vehicles.

    My wife’s former 2006 Cobalt would get the “service airbag” alert 75% of them time. I got a used 2013 Impala LS that has had the airbag light on after 2 months of ownership. No TSB or recall to fix what seems to be a pretty common/big safety issue, i have not fixed it as i fear the huge repair bill. This is all in addition to having my passenger seat belt alert going off randomly when i am the only one in the car, and having my traction control activate during regular driving when it has no business activating.

    I used to root for GM to do well, but after my last couple of experiences with them, it just seems like they cant get simple safety things right.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    So this is the strategy by which the statists finally eliminate the hated private automobile?

    1 – Hit the car manufacturers with conflicting, increasingly-difficult-to-meet demands for emissions, fuel economy and safety until it becomes impossible to both legally and economically produce a motor vehicle for anyone but the wealthy.

    2 – Impose a zero-defect, zero-tolerance legal climate on the manufacturers and encourage the public to bring every piddling-crap complaint to a sympathetic judge and jury, preferably with a handy dose of venue shopping.

    3 – Hit the car manufacturers with so many recalls, again with a zero-defect, zero-tolerance mindset, that they collapse under all the fines, legal bills and plaintiff payouts.

    4 – Impose robocars on us in the name of Safety or The Children or whatever excuse will get traction with the soft-headed amongst us.

    5 – Do all of the above while telling us it’s for our own good.

    Tyranny in the name of Safety or The Children or The Environment or whatever is still tyranny.

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