The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is investigating 1,132 customer complaints about the Chevrolet Cobalt. Drivers have reported a sudden loss of power steering in the 2005-09 Cobalt and the 2008-09 Cobalt SS, which has "resulted in difficulty controlling the vehicle, such as departing from the desired travel lane", according to an NHTSA report. So far, the glitch has been linked to 11 accidents and one injury, but no deaths.
The NHTSA began its investigation last week, and there is no published timeline for its conclusion. However, if the study results in a recall notice, it will affect roughly 950,000 vehicles. General Motors has said that it is cooperating fully with the agency.
Of course, no automaker wants to rush headlong into a massive, headline-grabbing recall -- especially GM, which can ill-afford the expense, the loss of sales, or the additional dings to its already-beat up reputation. Making the story that much worse (for GM) is that the investigation centers on the beleaguered Cobalt, a model that's no stranger to recalls and one that's finally being killed off after years of terrible reviews. Now, the Cobalt's reputation may live on -- but like the Ford Pinto, it won't be in the good way.
That said, we'd like to think that automakers across the board have learned a valuable lesson from Toyota's mistakes: when there's a problem, get ahead of it. Waiting for things to boil over is a dangerous proposition for drivers and balance sheets alike.
2010 Chevrolet Cobalt