Originally affecting 619,122 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s, General Motors Co. expanded its recall on Tuesday to include an additional 748,024 vehicles including all 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet HHRs.
GM first announced the recall on February 13 stating that jarring events such as bumpy roads or a heavy key chain could result in the recalled vehicles’ ignition switches moving from “run” to “accessory,” effectively shutting of the engine.
Such an event results in the loss of power brakes and power steering, and could prevent air bags from deploying in the event of a collision.
According to court documents, General Motors may have known about the ignition switch issue as early as 2014 after a GM engineer experienced engine failure during a test drive.
By 2005, engineers had positively concluded that the incident was linked to the vehicle’s ignition switch, and that such switches were prone to failure.
However, it was not until 2007 that the issue was reported to regulatory authorities when GM began sending out “Technical Service Bulletins” instructing dealers to fix the problems by installing snap-on key covers. A program engineering manager later testified that the remedy was more of an “improvement” than a true “fix.”
It was not until February, roughly 10 years after learning of the defect, that GM initiated a recall and deemed the defect a safety issue.
It is currently speculated that at least 13 deaths and 30 frontal accidents may have been prevented had the company acted more quickly – two weeks ago, it was believed that only six deaths had been caused by ignition switch failure.