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Auto blogFri, 21 Feb 2014 10:15:00 EST
Well, this is not good for General Motors. Following a report last week that GM was recalling 778,000 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compacts over concerns that the ignition could switch out of the "run" position without warning, USA Today reports that the Detroit-based behemoth knew about the issue, which affected 2005 to 2007 Cobalts (the Cobalt shown above and in the gallery is from 2010) and 2007 Pontiac G5s, all the way back in 2004.
The information comes from a deposition in a civil lawsuit against GM, obtained by USA Today, which claims that a GM engineer experienced the issue while the then-new model was undergoing testing. The issue was "solved" when a technical service bulletin was issued in 2005, informing dealers to install a snap-on key cover on the cars of customers who complained about the issue. According to the Cobalt's program engineering manager, Gary Altman, the cover was an "improvement, it was not a fix to the issue."
The case where the depositions were made was from 2010, and involved Brooke Melton, a 29-year-old pediatric nurse in Georgia who was killed on her birthday. At the time, police claimed she was going too fast on a wet, rural road, although it later came out through the black box that her car's ignition had come out of the "run" position at least three seconds before the accident (the max amount of time a black box records before a wreck), disabling her airbags, power steering and anti-lock brakes. According to USA Today, police said Melton was "traveling too fast for the roadway conditions," although it's impossible to know if she'd have been in the wreck, which injured the occupants of another vehicle, had her 2005 Chevy not shut off. GM settled the Melton family's case, although the details remain confidential.
According to two separate reports in The Detroit News, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching investigations into 550,000 Pontiac G6 (pictured above) and 320,000 Honda Odyssey (pictured right) models. The G6 models are all from the 2005 to 2007 model years, while the Odyssey minivans are from the 2003 and 2004 model years. The two NHTSA probes are not related.
In the case of the G6, this is an upgrade to an original investigation that started in February after NHTSA received "hundreds of reports" that the brake lights on these cars may malfunction. According to The Detroit News, the lights may come on when the brake pedal is not depressed, and likewise, the brake lights may not illuminate when the pedal has been pushed. General Motors was able to provide NHTSA with a significant number of warranty claims, including 1,100 reports that could potentially relate to this problem, one of which indicates a vehicle crash.
For Honda, the NHTSA probe concerns airbags that may deploy unexpectedly. The government agency received six complaints from 2003-04 Odyssey owners saying that the front airbags suddenly went off without a crash. The Detroit News reports that three of the six owners sustained injuries from these incidents. Additionally, NHTSA has received 41 complaints from owners saying the vehicle's airbag warning light had illuminated.
588,000 Saturn Sky, Saturn Ion, Pontiac Solstice and Chevy HHR models join the 778,000 cars already being recalled.
General Motors has announced a massive expansion of a 778,000-unit recall we told you about two weeks ago, doubling not only the total number of cars affected but expanding the recall beyond Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models previously mentioned. The recall originally centered around ignition switches that could slip out of the "run" position if jostled or if any weight was applied to the key in the cylinder.