General Motors late Friday expanded its ignition switch recall to cover 824,000 newer models of the same cars in the U.S., and 970,700 worldwide.
GM says it now will replace the ignition switch in all model years of its Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Pontiac G5, Solstice and Saturn Ion and Sky. Until now the recall covered only cars through the 2007 model year.
The later cars have an improved switch, but GM's announcement said the earlier, faulty switches may have been used in some cases to repair these later vehicles.
GM said that about 95,000 of the older, faulty switches were sold to dealers and parts houses and it believes that about 5,000 of them may have been used to repair newer vehicles. It would not be feasible to track them all down, so GM is recalling all the vehicles, the announcement said.
"We are taking no chances with safety," said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement. "Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million vehicles and distributed to thousands of retailers isn't practical. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling the rest of the model years. We are going to provide our customers with the peace of mind they deserve and expect by getting the new switches into all the vehicles."
With the addition of the 2008 and new vehicles, the recall now covers:
- 2005-10 Chevrolet Cobalts
- 2006-11 Chevrolet HHRs
- 2006-10 Pontiac Solstice
- 2007-10 Pontiac G5
- 2007-10 Saturn Sky
- 2003-10 Saturn Ion
GM says it knows of no fatalities in the newer vehicles linked to the faulty switch problem.
The original recalls in February covered 1.62 million of these vehicles through 2007 models worldwide. All of these vehicles were built through 2010, except the HHR continued through a 2011 model. In addition to the 824,000 of the newer vehicles in the U.S., the expansion adds 132,000 in Canada, 5,700 in Mexico and 9,000 in the rest of the world.
The move shows that GM is serious about changing how it handles such problems, says Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director for Kelley Blue Book. "The latest action by General Motors makes clear that it is pulling out all the stops in making certain that this problem comes to a quick end," he says. "By replacing switches that have potentially been replaced, it demonstrates that this is not business as usual for GM."
The recall came because faulty ignition switches in these vehicles could be jostled out of the "run" position on the road, shutting off the engine and disabling the air bags, as well a shutting off the power assist for steering and brakes. The company knows of 12 deaths and 31 crashes linked to the switch defect.
Barra has apologized for the recalls and for delays in dealing with the problem -- the company first knew about it in 2001. She is scheduled to testify on Tuesday and Wednesday before congressional committees investigating the recall. The recall also is the subject of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Justice Department investigations.
With both the older vehicles and now the newer models GM urges owners to drive the cars using the ignition key alone, with not even the key fob attached. While there have been demands in a Texas lawsuit and from a U.S. senator that the vehicles be taken off the road, GM says its engineers have confirmed they are safe to drive if the key is used alone.
GM said that owners of the later vehicles will receive a notification letter the week of April 21 and that GM dealers will replace their ignition switch as parts become available. GM said it expects to have the first batch of switches for recall repairs -- about 60,000 -- at dealers the week of April 7. It said that owners who paid earlier to have ignition switches replaced can get paid back.
The company's full details about the recalls is available at www.gmignitionupdate.com.