So, you are driving along in your Chevy Cobalt, completely disappointed in your life. Why did you buy a new car that really did not get any significant improvements from the Cavalier that it replaced? You notice the excess road noise; turn the knob to the radio and sigh. Better plastic was used in the Ziploc container your lunch meat came in. This week it is turkey. Sliced deli thin and pressed between two slices of bread for a sandwich that you are brown bagging, because if you could afford something better for lunch, you wouldn’t be in a Chevy Cobalt.
You are at highway speed, surprising as it is. With how the interior is rattling, you would think you would have had to have the supercharger from the SS trim level just to get up to these speeds. You check the rear view, noticing the BMW behind you. A 5-Series, suit and tie behind the wheel wearing aviators. A quick check of your blind spots; Geo Metro to the right (you feel a bit better about the Cobalt), and a Honda Accord leaving a sizable gap.
Barely a moment passes, you refocus on the road ahead, and the entire car goes dead. Acceleration is gone, gauges read zero. The car jerks to a stop, the BMW swerves passed, horn blaring, but a Toyota Camry following too close behind him doesn't react as quickly and slams into your rear. Your airbags don’t deploy. What's the worst part about all of this? It happened nearly a decade ago.
That is a situation at least 31 people have faced. Thirteen of those accidents resulted in deaths from defective ignition switches that may have rotated out of the “run” position to either the “off” or “accessory” positions without warning. The engine and powered accessories are then cut off, forcing drivers out of control, and leaving airbags and other electronic safety equipment disabled and powerless.
Other than a worldwide recall last month on 1.62 million Chevrolet Cobalt’s, Pontiac G5's, Chevrolet HHRs, Saturn Ion's, Saturn Sky’s, and Pontiac Solstice's made between 2003 and 2007, GM has been pretty closed lipped on the issue that they have known about for the last decade. The Feds, according to caranddriver.com, have started a twofold investigation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned in 107-point that if General Motors does not turn over all documents related to the recall they will face a fine of $35 million and federal lawyers. On top of that the House Energy and Commerce Committee are set to subpoena GM executives and NHTSA officials to uncover why this problem hasn't been brought to the forefront until now.
GM has already admitted to discovering the problem back in 2004. The automaker originally blamed short people and excessively clutters key chains for the issue, and even though they changed out the entire part on later models, there was no announcement to the public. Twelve Cobalt’s were even bought back when their dealers couldn't fix their cars.
GM and the NHTSA knew of 19 complaints, but no investigation on the safety of the various GM models was conducted. Caranddriver.com reports that on February 10th, it took only seven complaints of a loss of power braking on 2010-2011 Mazda CX9’s and a just one complaint on the 2012 Hyundai Elantra for the NHTSA to escalate a safety investigation on those models. All 19, including a GM engineer who had side airbags inadvertently deployed while drifting his Cadillac CTS-V wagon, were all written off, and no investigation sought out.
Owners and their families who have faced these problems, and have had to deal with costly repairs, injuries, or even loss of loved ones could have little recourse in all of this. Claims from before GM went bankrupt back in 2009 must be brought to the Motors Liquidation Company, that has no money to pay out for damages, and not GM, as it currently stands.