DETROIT— General Motors on Tuesday put the number of small cars it is recalling to 1.6 million for fixing faulty ignition switches linked to multiple fatal crashes.
Just two weeks ago, GM recalled more than 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. It’s now adding 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts, Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars.
The company was lambasted by a safety advocate who said GM knew of the deadly problem for years. GM says a heavy key ring or jarring from rough roads can cause the ignition switch to move and shut off the engine and electrical power. That can knock out brakes and steering and disable the front air bags. The problem has been linked to 31 crashes and 13 front-seat deaths. In the fatalities, the air bags did not inflate, but the engines did not shut off in all cases, GM said.
The vehicles being recalled include: Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s from the 2005 through 2007 model years; Saturn Ion compacts from 2003 through 2007; and Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars from 2006 and 2007.
According to a GM chronology filed Monday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the problem was known in 2004, and there was at least one fatal crash in 2007. GM issued bulletins in 2005 and 2006 telling dealers how to fix the problem with a key insert. But the company’s records showed that only 474 vehicle owners got the key inserts.
“They knew by 2007 they had 10 incidents where the air bag didn’t deploy in this type of crash,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Center for Auto Safety. “This is a case where both GM and NHTSA should be held accountable for doing a recall no later than the spring of 2007.”