A GM recall was expanded on Tuesday to include more than 1.6 million vehicles
in the United States, Canada and Mexico and a small number overseas. The recall involves a fatal ignition flaw that has been shown to trigger the vehicle's engine to turn off unintentionally and cause an accident.
Tuesday's recall involved some 842,103 Saturn Ion compact cars from 2003 through 2007 model years, Chevy HHR mid-sized vehicles from 2006 and 2007, and the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars from 2006 and 2007. GM no longer makes any of the affected cars, Reuters noted
Earlier in the month, GM issued a similar recall involving some 779,000 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compact cars
from model years 2005 through 2007, of which 619,000 were sold in the U.S., 153,000 in Canada and more than 6,000 in Mexico.
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In addition to the engine components unintentionally shutting off, the fatal malfunction also shuts off other components including airbags, power steering, and power-assisted brakes, Reuters reported.
To date there have been 31 reported incidents tied to the malfunctions leading to 13 front-seat fatalities, according to a General Motors spokesman, who added that all of the crashes occurred off-road and at high speeds, and alcohol and a failure to wear seat belt were factors in some cases.
"The process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been," GM's North American head, Alan Batey, said in a statement. "We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward."
"We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can," Batey added.
The timing of the recall however did not sit well with some automotive safety experts.
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"They knew by 2007 they had 10 incidents where the air bag didn't deploy in this type of crash," Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Center for Auto Safety, told the Associated Press. "This is a case where both GM
and NHTSA should be held accountable for doing a recall no later than the spring of 2007."
The Detroit-based automaker had previously attributed the fatal ignition flaw to the weight on the key ring and road conditions, advising owners to remove nonessential items from key rings to lessen its weight.
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