GM Ignition Switch Recall

Back in 2014, General Motors found itself right in the 2012-Chevrolet-Camaromiddle of one of the history’s biggest automobile controversy. This was after approximately thirteen people lost their lives in accidents that were presumed to have been caused by a faulty ignition switch. The defect in the ignition would cause the ignition to switch itself to accessory mode.

Under high speeds and busy highways, the danger was immense since the error would stop the engine and disable the power steering, brakes and the airbags the resultant crash would most likely result in death. The ensuing is a series of events that took place, depicting the ignorance and incompetence of some senior employees in the industry, which resulted in either death or injury to a number of car owners.


Family members of victims of defective GM ignition switches hold a press conference outside the Capitol April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. General Motors announced a recall of more than 1.3 million vehicles for ignition-switch problems linked to 13 deaths. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Family members of victims of defective GM ignition switches hold a press conference outside the Capitol April 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. General Motors announced a recall of more than 1.3 million vehicles for ignition-switch problems linked to 13 deaths. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Problems are noted on the ignition switch by a report on the Saturn Ion, which back then was still in development. However, the warning is ignored as they say that a design change would solve the problem.

2002 February

The ignition switch is approved by GM even after Delhi (supplier) had told them that the switch didn’t meet the specifications of GM.


A Saturn Ion fault is reported by a technician after it stalled while driving. The technician added that the weight of the keys had weakened the switch.

Late 2004- 2005

Chevrolet cobalt goes on sale. GM later learn that there was a crash where cobalt engine lost its power after the driver accidentally moved the key. GM replicates the crash through test drives. However, the potential solutions that an inquiry which had been opened to look into the accident, are rejected.

2005 February

One engineer advises against making changes to the switch because it was too weak. This was during a GM’s engineer meeting, which was to consider if changes were to be made.

2005 Marchgm-timeline-barra

Cobalt engineering manager closes an investigation saying the switch could be costly and time-consuming, further saying that none of the solutions represented an adequate business case.

2005 May

A design change proposition by a GM engineer is rejected. The proposition was to come up with a key that would jerk the ignition downwards.

2005 July 29th

A cobalt ignition fault causes a frontal crash and the subsequent death of sixteen-year-old, Amber Marie Rose.

2005 Septemberwheels_USA-GENERAL-MOTORS

A file on the Maryland crash is opened by GM’s legal personnel.

2005 December

To prevent the ignition from being pulled sown GM tells dealers to inform cobalt owners to take excess items off their car keys. Warranty records show that 474 car owners got car key inserts, which would prevent the ignition key from moving while in the ignition.

2006 April

A new switch design that would later go into the 2007 and later models is signed off for redesigning by a GM engineer.

206 Octobergty_gm_general_motors_cars-thg-130619_wblog

Dealers are updated and authorized by GM, to install the newly redesigned key to the 2007 and later models.

2007 March

GM employees are informed by the NHTSA about the 2005 crash in which the airbags failed to deploy. By the year end there are nine crashes and in four of those, the ignition switch position had moved.

2007 August

Indiana university is called upon to study a crash in Wisconsin which had claimed two lives back in 2006. The findings indicate that the key position was in accessory mode, and thus the airbags could not deploy.

2007 September

An investigation is opened by the NHTSA Defects Assessment Unit’s chief, on the Cobalt and Ion airbags failure. However, the investigation panel deems it unnecessary to open an inquiry saying that the airbags weren’t failing at a high rate compared to the peer vehicles.


GM finally decides to make changes to the keys head the design. The key is changed from the slot design to a hole, and is installed in the 2010 and later model.


GM agrees to repair power steering in over a million Chevrolet Cobalts that were sold between 2005 and 2010, and Pontiac G5s sold between 2007 and 2010.


GM launches an investigation to determine why the airbags failed to deploy, mainly focusing on Cobalts assembled between 2005 and 2007, and the 2007 Pontiac G5s.


The investigation is widened and is deemed a wild goose chase. The investigation is shut down without coming up with and helpful information.

2013 December

The new GM’s incoming CEO Mary Barra learns about the defective ignition switch.

2014 January

GM’s executive committee approves a recall.

2014 February 13th

Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s, and Pontiac Pursuits from the 2005- 2007 makes are recalled. They totaled 780,000.

2014 February 25th

The recall is expanded, and the four other models are also recalled. Total worldwide recalls now are over 1.6 million.

2014 March 5th

NHTSA orders GM to turn in the documents that document when they found out about the switch defect. CEO Barra promises her employees a thorough investigation.

2014 March 10th

A criminal probe is being conducted by the justice department while a house subcommittee announces that a hearing will be held on April 1st, the Agenda is the GM recalls.

2014 March 17th

GM announces three new recalls of over 1.5 million vehicles as a sign of good faith to their customers to show that they are moving quickly to fix the defects.

2014 March 18th

CEO Barra apologizes on behalf of the entire GM, and she appoints a new safety chief.

2014 March 28th

The recall is expanded as a further 971,000 vehicles that may have gotten the defective switches as replacements are recalled. They are the models from 2008- 2011.

2014 March 31st

GM recalls the 2010 Cobalt and the Ion 2004-2007 make to fix some problems with the power steering. More than 1.5 cars are recalled.

2014 April

CEO Barra and David Friedman, who was then acting NHTSA chief, are to testify before the house subcommittee. GM says that replacement switches will be available in dealerships globally. However, they are quick to admit that the replacement process might drag on till October.

2014 June

GM offers, at least, a million dollars to all the familiesGM-logo that may have lost a loved one as a result of the defective switches. Ken Feinberg is tasked with the responsibility of handling the compensations.

GM further stated that they won’t cap the program. However, the families that would accept the settlement waived their right to sue the company. By the end of June, a further 8.4 million vehicles are recalled worldwide. The most common fault is a defective ignition switch. Expenses would now be expected to rise to over $1.2 billion.

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