At the end of June, General Motors recalled 6.73 million cars for ignition switch problems. No, not the Cobalts and Ions; different cars, primarily midsize sedans like the Oldsmobile Alero and Pontiac Grand Prix. And last night, the automaker disclosed it has known about those ignition problems since 2003.
The June recall was due to "unintended ignition key rotation," or in plain English, the key unintentionally turning to the accessory mode, which shut off the engine and disabled the airbags. It's just like the Cobalt problems, only on different cars.
However, The Detroit News reports that according to a regulatory filing disclosed last night, GM first received a report of stalling in 2003 on a Grand Am. They told their dealers to pay attention to what customers put on their key rings.
Later in 2003 they made a change to the ignition in the Grand Am, Chevy Malibu and Oldsmobile Alero. Then in 2004, GM issued another work order to change the part in the Grand Prix, but didn't change the part number there in order to maintain the commonality of parts between the cars.
Reuters explains why this mislabeling of parts can be a potential problem:
That means that an unknown number of possibly flawed parts could have been used to service GM models brought in for repair at dealerships or repair shops after the redesign was made.
It sounds a lot like what happened with the Cobalt switch because it is very similar. In fact, the guy who authorized the change to the Cobalt ignition switch without changing the part number — now fired engineer Ray DeGiorgio — is the one who signed a work order authorizing the changes to the Grand Prix switch in 2004 as well.
A GM spokesman said the company is not aware of crashes, injuries or deaths involving the recalled Malibu, Grand Am, Grand Prix and Alero models. However, they do know of two deaths in recalled Impalas where airbags didn't deploy, though it's not clear whether the defect caused those crashes.