Why Is GM Not Recalling The Solstice And Sky For Airbag Failures?

Bozi Tatarevic
by Bozi Tatarevic
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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  • Ianw33 Ianw33 on Sep 18, 2015

    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.

  • OneAlpha OneAlpha on Sep 18, 2015

    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.

  • Inside Looking Out This is actually the answer to the question I asked not that long ago.
  • Inside Looking Out Regarding "narrow windows" - the trend is that windows will eventually be replaced by big OLED screens displaying some exotic place or may even other planet.
  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that