GM Ignition Switch Defect
Many accidents were occurring in which Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion compact-size cars had somehow gone out of control and crashed into other vehicles or objects. In most instances, when a frontal collision then occurred, the airbags failed to inflate, and the driver and passenger were severely injured or killed.
Arising out of product-liability litigation cases, the plaintiffs' technical and legal team had discovered that a GM car at-issue had a defectively designed ignition switch that could suddenly go from the "on" position to the "off" or "accessory" position. When it did so, the engine, power steering, and power brakes would all become inoperative... and the driver was often unable to keep the car under control. And if a collision happened, the airbags didn't deploy!
As the story of GM's cover-up was revealed through a series of Congressional Hearings, it showed how GM had a 10-year history of failing to react to a serious safety issue with the ignition switches. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had also failed to conduct an active investigation, despite having sufficient evidence. NHTSA even requested information from GM, but GM gave only evasive, inadequate answers.
GM and its supplier Delphi had short-changed the internal design of the switch by using a shorter plunger and weaker coil spring, which thus failed to provide sufficient torque resistance to keep the plunger securely in position in the proper detent. Instead, if there were a few keys on the switch keychain, and if the car hit a pothole or was jostled by the driver's knee, the plunger would jump out of the detent and the switch would move out of the "on" position.
When the switch was re-designed, the GM part number was strangely the same, so it was difficult to know if the switch was the original weak design or the upgraded stronger design. The original cost difference was only 57 cents to have had a safer switch. Finally, in early 2014, GM apologized to the victim families, to the public, and to Congress. GM then established a special "protocol" to invite victims to discuss settling of their cases, instead of filing and pursuing justice through the litigation process.
This GM Cobalt-Ion defective ignition switch fiasco is still unfolding. The Institute for Car Crash Justice believes much more will be uncovered, and this defect is only the proverbial "tip of the iceberg." And there are many more hidden vehicle defects yet to be revealed... with unsuspecting vehicle owners at continuing needless peril.
NOTE: As of July 2014, General Motors has recalled almost 30 million vehicles for this year 2014 alone. The variety of defects includes the notorious ignition switch, plus front seat brackets, power steering failures, and loose suspension bolts. As vehicles get much more complex and costly, the quantity and range of safety defects also continues to expand.