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General Motors (GM) is expanding an ignition switch recall announced last week, to include 1.6 million cars, and the auto maker has apologized to consumers for the problems that may have resulted in at least 13 deaths.
On February 25, GM issued a press release announcing the ignition switch recall expansion.
The original recall was limited to certain 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles, as well as the Pontiac Pursuit, which was only sold in Canada. GM has now expanded the spoke of the recall to also include model year 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky models.
The number of total vehicles affected now tops 1.6 million, with 1.3 million of those sold in the United States. The rest were sold in Canada and Mexico.
According to GM, the vehicles may turn themselves off during use due to a problem with the torque in the ignition switch. This can happen if heavy keys are used in the ignition or if the vehicle experiences an impact, like a rough road or a crash. If this happens, then the airbags may not deploy during a crash.
Adding in the expanded vehicle population, GM says it is aware of at least 31 incidents where the airbags failed to deploy during an auto accident that may have been due to this problem. The company said it is aware of at least 13 front-seat fatalities that were suffered in these accidents.
As part of the investigation into the incidents, GM submitted a detailed chronology of how it investigated the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Monday. The report suggests that GM knew about the problem for years, but may have been slow to act. GM officials say that they are reviewing their investigation process.
“The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been,” admitted GM North America President Alan Batey in the company’s press release. “Today’s GM is committed to doing business differently and better. We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward.”
The company says it is going beyond the required written notifications for customers and is using customer records, social media and other communications channels to reach owners affected by the recall.
Once owners are notified, GM has instructed dealers to replace the ignition switches. In the meantime, those with affected vehicles should drive only using the ignition key, removing all unnecessary items from the key ring, the company advises.