Two weeks ago, General Motors issued a recall for the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and the 2007 Pontiac G5. Those vehicles contain a dodgy ignition switch, and if drivers carry heavy keychains or travel down rough roads, the pressure on that switch can turn off the engine, causing the vehicle to lose power steering, power brakes, and possibly disable the airbag system.
According to AutoNews, GM's recall has just been expanded to include the 2003-2007 Saturn Ion and the 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky. Adding these 588,000 vehicles to the nearly 780,000 already on the books means that the recall now affects a total of 1,367,146 cars in the U.S.
The problem has been linked to at least 31 collisions and 13 deaths. Now, GM is being chastised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for its handling of the investigation and current recall.
General Motors first received reports of the ignition switch flaw in 2004, shortly after the Cobalt's debut. Unfortunately, GM shut down its investigation when engineers considered the logistics of carrying out a full recall, including the cost to GM.
Over the past decade, the automaker issued some service bulletins to dealers, one of which asked dealers to tell customers not to carry so many keys on their key rings. The company also created an insert to inhibit the movement of keys while they were inserted in the ignition.
Ultimately, the problem was resolved around the 2007 model year, when GM made changes to the ignition switch, though no recall was issued at the time. It wasn't until late 2013 -- when engineers from an outside firm proved that the problem lay with the ignition switch -- that the recall began to move forward. It was officially issued on January 31, 2014.
Earlier this week, GM submitted a timeline of the investigation and recall process to NHTSA. GM North America President Alan Batey says that "The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been. 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 TO DO
GM hasn't said exactly when it plans to begin notifying owners of the recall, but given the severity of the problem and the criticism GM has faced for its handling of the investigation, we expect notices to roll out very soon. According to a company press release:
Going beyond required written notification, GM, through its customer care centers and social media teams, is using customer records and communications channels to notify affected customers of the recall and additional actions the company is willing to take to relieve their concerns and minimize inconvenience....
Dealers will replace the ignition switch to prevent the unintentional or inadvertent key movement. Until this correction is performed, customers should use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring. As always, customers should drive responsibly and use their safety belts.
If you own one of the recalled vehicles and have questions in the meantime, you should start by contacting your local dealer. However, because the recall is so knew, dealers may not have complete details. If your dealer can't answer all your questions, you can contact the GM division for your specific brand right over here.