GM switch complaints began 17 years ago, long before Cobalt

Thu Jul 3, 2014 4:23pm EDT
 
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By Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors car owners have been complaining to dealers about defective ignition switches since 1997, years before the automaker launched the Chevrolet Cobalt and other small cars with faulty switches linked to at least 13 deaths.

GMGM.N this week expanded its recall of cars with switch issues by more than 8 million, but it did not indicate when it first learned of problems in cars including the 1997 Chevrolet Malibu and the 2000 Chevrolet Impala.

A Reuters review of a consumer complaints database maintained by U.S. safety regulators showed that GM dealers were told of switch-related defects almost as soon as the Malibu was put on the market, and that many could not fix the defects.

Early issues included keys that either stuck in the ignition or could be pulled out while the vehicle was running, as well as ignition switches that failed to start the engine or apparently caused the engine to stall.

In later years, some owners said their cars stalled while on the highway and one quoted a dealer as saying changing the switch could solve the problem.

In one of the earliest complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a New Jersey woman in April 1997 said she had been "stranded seven times" when her new 1997 Malibu could not be started, while the key remained stuck in the ignition and could not be turned.

The ignition was replaced twice by her dealer, but the problem was not resolved.

"I cannot comprehend how three different... ignition cylinders can all be defective," she wrote.   Continued...

 
The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan August 25, 2009.  REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files