General Motors took a lot of heat in February when it admitted to waiting about a decade, letting at least 13 deaths pile up, before it finally initiated a recall for a faulty ignition switch on 2.6 million Chevy Cobalts and a few other small vehicles.
Then, on Saturday, Associated Press auto writer Tom Krisher, using government documents posted on the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reported that GM deserved blame for having delayed by a few years another recent recall of the Saturn Ion for a faulty power steering motor.
Despite 30,000 warranty claims, 12 accidents, two injuries, and thousands of complaints, the company and the NTHSA failed to recall Ions from model years 2004 to 2007 for two years while an investigation into the motors languished.
When Krisher sought a comment from the company about the wait to recall the Ion, a spokesman pointed Krisher to a statement made by the company’s global safety chief, Jeff Boyer, when GM finally recalled some 233,000 Ions last month: “We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough. With these safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right.”
According to CNN Money, GM was forced into a situation with the Cobalt due to a labor agreement and new fuel efficiency standards, to keep building something it no longer wanted to build.
“They couldn’t stop making them,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Kelly Blue Book, “but they stopped caring about doing a good job on them.”
Added Cars analyst Jesse Toprak: “The Cobalt wasn’t designed to be the best compact car. It was done to make sure that GM met fuel economy standards and utilized manufacturing capacity that was already there.”
So, concluded CNN Money writer Chris Isidore:
It’s not that surprising that the Cobalt, and the versions of the car sold by GM’s Pontiac and Saturn brands, weren’t great cars. That’s undoubtedly what GM CEO Mary Barra was referring to when she referenced the “cost culture” that governed what is now referred to as the old GM, prior to its 2009 bankruptcy, during Congressional hearings on the recall.
And now the Saturn Ion recall starts jabbing at GM‘s ribs. Though that recall just got underway weeks ago, the first complaints started in summer 2004, with the first injury reported to the NTHSA three years later.
Though the 2004 complaint detailed a situation in which the driver, traveling at 25 mph, turned the steering wheel but it locked, causing the car to slam into a tree. Still, the complainant said, “Saturn stated the vehicle is not a defect.”
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]