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Saturn Vue ignition issue was discussed three times before recall, new documents reveal

Fri, 05 Sep 2014 17:46:00 EST

Despite the tens of millions of recalled vehicles this year, it's somewhat rare that we get a glimpse into what goes into deciding when to conduct one of these safety campaigns. New documents published by General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are giving us an interesting opportunity to see how the sausage is made and show the number of meetings it takes to declare a recall.

In early August, GM added about another 269,000 vehicles to its 2014 recall tally in the US when it announced a slew of new safety campaigns. Among them was a fix for the 2002-2004 Saturn Vue that covered 202,155 of them in the US. The problem was that the key could be removed from the ignition even when it wasn't in the "OFF" position, and that had caused two crashes and one injury, according to the automaker.

Where we start to see behind the veil is in the defect notice freshly released by NHTSA. It shows that GM began investigating more widely for ignition switches in April, shortly after the company expanded its ignition switch recall to a variety of Saturn products, among others, according to Automotive News. The automaker found 152 reports in the 2002-2004 Vue of vehicles rolling away or the key being removed out of a total population of 215,243 units worldwide.

GM first discussed that data with NHTSA on June 17, then on July 7 and again on July 24. The company's Open Issue Review Panel looked at it on July 28, and on July 31, its "Safety Field Action Decision Authority decided to conduct a safety-related recall." That's over a month of meetings to decide on just one safety campaign. The entire defect notice is available for download from NHTSA as a PDF, here.

By Chris Bruce

See also: Saturn Vue ignition switch leads to new group of GM recalls totaling 312k, GM issues four new recalls, 2.4 million cars affected, GM recalling another 2.7 million vehicles in five separate campaigns.