Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 1, 2014

TOM'S CORNER: GM's ignition switch recall update

Niagara Gazette — It’s no secret that GM has had problems managing the recall of vehicles with faulty ignition switches. In February GM issued sweeping recalls for several models suspected of having a faulty ignition switch that automatically turns the car’s engine off and prevents air bags from deploying — while the car is in motion. At the core of the problem is a weak spring in the vehicle’s ignition switch. Because this part produces weaker spring tension, ignition keys in the cars may turn off the engine if shaken with just the right downward pressure on the key ring.

The history of this defect is long and winding, and it presents many questions about how GM handled the situation from the outset. The main questions being asked are: How long did the company know about the problem? Why did the company not inform NHTSA of the problem sooner? Why weren’t recalls done sooner? And did GM continue to manufacture models using the faulty part knowing full well that the defect existed? All excellent questions, that I’m sure lawyers will be asking in courts across the country as this thing grows legs and takes on a life of its own.

I did some research and came up with a timeline of events leading up to the recall.

• 2001: GM detects the defect during pre-production testing of the Saturn Ion.

• 2003: A service tech closes an inquiry into a stalling Saturn Ion after changing the key ring and noticing the problem was fixed.

• 2004: GM recognizes the defect again as the Chevy Cobalt replaces the Cavalier.

• March 2005: GM rejects a proposal to fix the problem because it would be too costly and take too long.

 May 2005: A GM engineer advises the company to redesign its key head, but the proposal is rejected.

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