CHICAGO: General Motors last week significantly expanded the recall of vehicles found to have an ignition defect that can cause them to suddenly turn off, a problem linked to 13 deaths.
The largest American carmaker will now recall 1.6 million vehicles in the US, Canada and Mexico. The original recall, issued about two weeks ago for nearly 780,000 vehicles, was linked to 22 crashes where the front seat airbags did not deploy, and six deaths.
The defect stems from a weakness in the ignition switch that could allow a heavy set of keys to switch it into the “accessory” or “off” position, particularly if the vehicle experiences a sudden jolt.
GM said in the initial recall that the five crashes that claimed the lives of six people “occurred off-road and at high speeds, where the probability of serious or fatal injuries was high regardless of airbag deployment.”
Further review raised the total to 31 crashes in which the defect may have stopped the airbags from deploying, and 13 deaths.
The recall now totals 1.4 million vehicles in the US, while nearly 236,000 were recalled in Canada and about 9,000 in Mexico.
GM said it will aggressively seek out owners to alert them to the risk and get them to bring their vehicles into a dealership where the repairs will be performed free of charge.
The recall affects the following vehicles: model years 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Pursuit; 2003 to 2007 Saturn Ion; 2006 to 2007 Chevrolet HHR; and 2006 to 2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky models.