By Matt Schmitz on February 24, 2014
The Problem: An issue with the ignition switch could allow the key to unintentionally move or switch to the Accessory or Off position, shutting down the engine and most of the vehicle's electrical components, increasing the risk of a crash. Five crashes, resulting in six deaths, already had been attributed to the problem, for which GM earlier this month recalled 619,122 model-year 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compact cars. This expansion, GM says, raises the number of reported incidents involving frontal crashes in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the non-deployment of frontal airbags to 31, with 12 front-seat fatalities. The automaker says the total affected number of U.S. vehicles is now 1,367,146.
The Fix: GM will notify owners directly and make the necessary repairs for free. Dealers will replace the ignition switch to prevent "unintentional or inadvertent" key movement. On Monday, GM said it submitted a detailed chronology to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlining events that happened during the time that elapsed between receiving the first field reports and issuing a recall. USA Today reported on Wednesday that at least one GM engineer had experienced the problem a decade ago while testing the Cobalt before it went on sale in 2004 as a 2005 model.
"The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been," said Alan Batey, GM North America president, in a statement. "Today's GM is committed to doing business differently and better. We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward."
What Owners Should Do: Owners can call GM at 800-521-7300 or NHTSA's vehicle-safety hotline at 888-327-4236, or go to www.safercar.gov, for more info. The automaker advised that until repairs are made, owners should use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated on March 13 to reflect GM lowering the number of deaths tied to the recall to 12
News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers. Email Matt