General Motors Announces Over Recall After 13 Killed

Steven Villa , News Editor

Credit Mike Renlund 2007 Chevy Cobalt (blurred plate)
2007 Chevrolet Cobalt one of the cars recalled by GM

Imagine cruising, high speed down the interstate, 73 miles per hour, windows down, the wind blowing in your eyes, five miles to Gary Indiana, next exit.

Imagine cruising. High speed down the interstate. 73 miles per hour. Windows down. The wind blowing in your eyes. Five miles to Gary Indiana. Next exit.

A jolt runs through your car from a bump in the road. The steering wheel, once lithe and graceful in your hands now feels heavy; a dead weight. You panic. The brakes are out. The wheel won’t turn and you and your car are in free-fall, careening towards the metal railing at the side of the road.

Your car hits the railing and the airbag fails to activate. The power never made it there. Your forehead hits the steering wheel at 73 miles per hour, splitting the skin like grapefruit and smashing your brain against the cap of your skull.

You were a fatal victim of a simple error, a mistake involving a tiny spring operating within the ignition switch of your car. According to General Motors (GM) spokesman Alan Adler, in an interview with Kelsey Mays of, anything from putting too many keys on your key ring to hitting a rough patch of terrain can put the ignition switch into the off position, which can affect, “items like [airbags] power steering and power-assisted brakes…”

GM’s own website warns that, “your ignition switch may move out of the ‘run’ position, resulting in a partial loss of electrical power and turning off the engine…” and, “This risk increases if your key ring is carrying added weight (such as more keys or the key fob) or your vehicle experiences rough road conditions or other jarring or impact related events.”

GM’s  2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt or Pontiac G5; a 2003-2007 Saturn Ion; a 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR; a 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit; a 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice; a 2007 Saturn Sky; or a 2008-2010 Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevrolet Cobalt, or Chevrolet HHR, have all been recalled in response to the issue.

This is an issue that has taken the lives of at least thirteen people. And all that it takes is a small plastic model of Snoopy dangling from the end of your keychain.

What makes this case an inexcusable offense is the amount of time that the situation took to be dealt with. The list of affected cars runs from 2005 to 2011; and according to official investigations into the matter, the problem has been understood since at least 2003 when a GM engineer filed a report announcing that it was fixed.

In 2005, a Maryland teenager was killed after her airbag failed to activate after crashing into a tree. When faced in the same year with the revelation that a huge number of their cars were suffering from the same problem, a gallery of GM’s upper management decided to ignore the problem, the cost of replacing the faulty springs considered too great for remediation.

The cost to replace an individual ignition switch? 57 cents.

However, the cost should not factor into such decisions at all. When anything; a person, corporation, or an organization makes a mistake of this magnitude, it is the well-being of the consumer and of the populace that must first be taken into account.

While cars are ubiquitous in today’s society, it should never be forgotten that first and foremost cars are large chunks of metal full of people and explosive liquid hurtling down hard roads at unimaginable speeds. They are capable of killing with or without defect, and with defect they are almost guaranteed to do so. When a car company ignores design flaws people die, and the company’s earnings should never be more important than the well-being of their customers and those around them.

GM has attempted to shirk their responsibility in the matter, claiming to be a different corporation following their 2009 bankruptcy. Even if that was true, even if the new GM was a completely different corporation with no connection to the old, it does not excuse the fact that the new General Motors continued to use the faulty ignition switch in cars produced after 2009, in cars like the 2010 Pontiac Solstice. It’s almost as if these two corporations which share the same names might be…the same corporation.

It’s difficult to write all this with a straight face. Corporations of all shapes and sizes constantly ignore common sense, common good, and the well-being of their customers for sometimes exceedingly small profit margins. The fact that GM has been putting their customers in danger for years and is now only dealing with the consequences of their actions under the auspices of being a “different corporation” is not surprising in the least. GM will only face their demons with the provision of zero responsibility.