A GM recall of 780,000 vehicles was announced by the major automaker this week after it was found that faulty ignition switches have been shutting off vehicles while they were being driven, resulting in six reported deaths.
Documents posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website show General Motors has been made aware of at least 22 separate incidents of vehicles shutting down in mid ride.
Both the Cobalt and G5 were discontinued years ago, but still can be found in secondary auto markets and used car lots.
“This latest GM recall involves 22 crashes and six fatalities tied directly to a design issue. Those are the numbers reported thus far, but with over 750,000 affected vehicles it’s possible more related incidents will be discovered now that it’s a widely reported problem involving the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5,” notes Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
Surprisingly, the fault is not due to any internal electronic shutdown, but rather because the ignition mechanism in the console is being “pulled” from the “run” position and into the “accessory” or even the “off” positions.
GM says the switches appear to have not met specs at the time of manufacturing, and the weight of heavy key rings can force the car to turn off, especially if the vehicle is jarred, for example, by driving over a pothole.
Once the car stalls, it drops its power assist for the steering and braking systems, causing the driver to lose control. In some cases, it also can prevent the airbags from deploying in any resulting crash.
According to USA Today, “GM says dealers will replace the ignition switch to remedy the problem. GM is urging owners to take non-essential items off of their key ring until the switch is replaced.”