GM saw signs of ignition switch defects as early as 2001

Article by Andrew Christian, on March 14, 2014

General Motors knew indications of faulty ignition switches in the Saturn Ion as early as 2001, three years earlier than previously disclosed by the US carmaker. GM received a report on the "passlock" system for the Saturn Ion's ignition switch in 2001 during pre-production development of the car, according to the carmaker’s latest filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

GM released the chronology to explain the global recall of a second batch of vehicles last month. The report said the ignition switch’s problem was "low detent plunger force," but a modification in its design resolved the issues. GM engineers and outside investigators would later discover a similar issue with a Delphi-supplied ignition switch installed in 1.6 million 2003-2007 vehicles.

The issue was fixed when Delphi started using a different detent plunger and spring to increase the torque in the switch. In a 2003 report, a service technician observed that a vehicle had stalled while driving. The technician noted that "[t]he owner had several keys on the key ring," and suggested that "[t]he additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch."

GM previously said in its NHTSA filing that the first indications surfaced in 2004, around the time the Chevrolet Cobalt went on sale. Since the issues with the Saturn Ion predate similar problems with the Chevrolet Cobalt, there have been questions on why GM did not recall the Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky at the same time as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5. The carmaker issued recalls in in two batches: the Cobalt and G5 on Feb. 13, and the rest on Feb. 25. [source: USAToday]

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