General Motors has expanded its recent recall of 780,000 Cobalts and Pontiac G5’s to include added more than 588,000 Saturn Ion compacts from model years 2003 through 2007,as well as Chevy HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars from model years 2006 and 2007 after it was found that their ignition switches could be jarred out of position by heavy keyrings as well as “rough pavement” resulting in accidental shut offs of engines. According to the NHTSA, the defect has been blamed 31 crashes and 13 front-seat deaths when air bags failed to deploy.
In the meantime, Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, as well as former president of the consumer group Public Citizen, has raised questions about why GM took so long to issue the recalls, after admitting that it first became aware of ignition switch problems with Cobalt as far back as 2005, when the cars were first introduced. In fact, General Motors claims it started investigating a cluster of crashes in which airbags had not deployed the following year. Cobalt production was ended during the summer of 2010.
“I hope that there will be a congressional investigation of this,” Claybrook, stated. “How could NHTSA let it go on for 10 years and how could General Motors let it go on for 10 years? As they said after Watergate: What did they know, and when did they know it?”
In the meantime, GM North America President Alan Batey issued a statement saying that, "The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been. However, GM is now 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."