NHTSA closes four-year probe of Ion steering issues after GM recall

DETROIT Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:33am EDT

A 2004 Saturn ION sedan is seen in an undated publicity photo. REUTERS/Handout via General Motors

A 2004 Saturn ION sedan is seen in an undated publicity photo.

Credit: Reuters/Handout via General Motors

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DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. safety regulators closed a four-year probe into power steering problems in almost 335,000 older Saturn Ions after General Motors Co recalled the cars, which are also part of an unrelated recall of defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in documents filed in its online database over the weekend, said it was closing its probe into 2004 to 2007 model-year Ion cars after GM's recall of the vehicles last month. The U.S. safety agency initially opened a preliminary evaluation of the issue in January 2010.

GM has been criticized for not acting fast enough on the consumer complaints surrounding recalls for the power steering issue as well as the defective switches linked to at least 13 deaths and the recall of 2.6 million vehicles.

The Ion was among the 1.5 million cars GM recalled on March 31 for possible loss of power steering. Three of the six models recalled, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR, are also involved in the ignition-switch recall.

On March 31, when GM announced the power-steering recall, GM global vehicle safety chief Jeff Boyer acknowledged the company had previously recalled other cars with the same issue and GM "did not do enough."

NHTSA also has come under fire for not pushing GM to recall cars affected in the switch and power steering issues. In the Ion power steering recall, NHTSA said it found 4,787 complaints and 30,560 warranty claims related to the issue, resulting in a complaint rate of 14.3 incidents per thousand vehicles and a warranty claim rate of 9.1 percent.

There were 12 crashes related to the Ion steering issue, two resulting in injuries to the drivers, according to the NHTSA documents.

Three of the crashes reported occurred in parking lots, six occurred while turning at street intersections and one on a highway exit ramp, according to the NHTSA documents. The crashes in parking lots or intersections all occurred at speeds of less than 30 miles per hour, while the incident on the highway exit ramp involved impact into a guard rail at about 35 mph.

GM said if power steering assist is lost, a message is displayed on the dash and a chime sounds to inform the driver.

"GM indicated that steering control can be maintained in manual (unassisted) steering mode, but would require greater driver effort at low vehicle speeds, which could increase the risk of a crash," according to the NHTSA documents.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Comments (4)
njglea wrote:
GM declared Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy in 2009 and is now trying to get out of liability for accidents that occurred before that. No accident here – well-planned with regulators to stick it to the little person again. The entire world financial system has gotten so corrupt it sickens one. We need new laws to protect consumers instead of corporate greedsters and BIG owners.

Apr 21, 2014 1:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
njglea wrote:

Apr 21, 2014 1:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Elridge wrote:
GM really need to evaluate the 2006 Chevrolet HHR. I too have experienced, lost of power steering, in my car while driving with my fiance and infant child. Because I was driving in a residential area,I was only going between 15-25 mph and I was able to stop the car by hitting the curbside. I can’t believe that they will not recall the 2006 Chevrolet HHR’s here in the US, but will do so in Canada….This is just horrible!

Apr 21, 2014 3:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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