GM aware of ignition problem in 2004, lawsuit claims

Feb. 19, 2014 at 4:16 PM
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DETROIT, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. automaker General Motors waited 10 years to issue a recall on a problem with the Chevrolet Cobalt that proved fatal in 2010, court documents claim.

GM acknowledged in a recall issued last week that it was aware of six deaths in five crashes that could be attributed to air bags failing to deploy because of a flaw in the ignition switch, USA Today reported Wednesday.

GM would not say if the crash that killed pediatric nurse Brooke Melton in 2010 was one of the six referred to in the recall, but court papers claim a recording system known as the car's "black box" document the ignition switch had moved away from the "run" position before her car skidded out of control on a two-lane road and was struck by another car.

The accident occurred about 30 miles from Atlanta in Paulding County, Ga., on Melton's 29th birthday.

With the ignition switch out of position, the engine shut off, which also shut down power-steering, anti-lock braking systems and air bags, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says a GM engineer documented the problem during a test drive of the Cobalt, which was launched in 2004.

GM issued a technical service bulletin in 2005 advising dealers to install a snap-on key cover to help alleviate the problem, but dealerships were advised to do so only if an owner complained, the newspaper reported.

In a deposition, GM program engineering manager Gary Altman said the key cover was an "improvement ... not a fix," to the problem.

In its recall, GM said a hard jolt or a heavy key ring could move the ignition key from "run" to "accessory" or "off."

The day before Melton's crash, she had the car serviced to address problems with the ignition switch on her Cobalt, but the key cover was not installed on her car. GM also did not order dealers to install the modification on unsold Cobalts or warn buyers of a problem with the ignition switch, the lawsuit says.

The GM recall involves 778,619 model year 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007 Pontiac G5 compact cars, the newspaper reported.

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