General Motors is currently under federal investigation after the automaker recalled more than 1,300,000 vehicles—including the 2003–2007 Saturn Ion, 2006–2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006–2007 Pontiac Solstice, and 2007 Saturn Sky models. These vehicles have a faulty ignition switch which can unintentionally move into the “off” or “idle” position if the driver has too much weight on his key chain or if the vehicle is unexpectedly jarred. This can cause the airbags to fail to deploy. The defect has been linked to at least 31 accidents and 13 deaths so far.
On March 11, 2014, GM admitted that the ignition switch problem may go back as far as 2001. The auto company has found records showing a faulty ignition switch in a pre-production Saturn Ion. The engineers’ notes show a problem with the ignition switch’s “pass lock” system diagnosed as “low detent plunger force”—the same problem that inspired the current recall. GM says that its engineers changed the design and fixed the problem.
The March 11 report also documents a 2003 incident in which a GM service technician was driving a Saturn Ion when the car stalled. The mechanic’s report stated that the weight of the keys had worn out the vehicle’s ignition switch. The mechanic replaced the switch.
GM also admitted that it began receiving related customer complaints in 2003. Customers described cases of stalling and of not being able to start their vehicles. GM issued repair instructions to dealers in 2005.
According to federal regulations, any auto manufacturer who is aware of a safety defect must notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) within five working days. The manufacturer has 60 days after the notification to announce a recall. GM did not announce a recall until February 2014—what took so long?
Congress and the NHTSA have the same question. The Senate will be holding a hearing in early April.
Were you injured because your airbags did not deploy in an accident involving one of the recalled vehicles? You may have a claim against GM. Contact Kaufman Law to learn more. There is no charge for the consultation.