The Saturn Ion is already one of the cars included in the 1.4 million U.S. cars recalled over a faulty ignition switch that can lead to unexpected shutdowns. Now, federal safety regulators are also investigating why it wasn't recalled four years ago for steering issues.
A report in Automotive News says that in 2010, GM recalled more than one million Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s after they were found to experience a sudden loss of power-steering assistance. The 2004-2007 Saturn Ion has the exact same power steering system, but it was not recalled.
Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as consumer watchdog groups, are wondering why the Ion wasn't recalled as well. AN reports that Ion owners have filed at least 846 complaints with NHTSA over the issue.
"We cannot understand the delay in recalling Saturn Ions, particularly in light of your recent statement that the ignition switch recall 'took too long,'" Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center, wrote Wednesday in a letter that he sent to GM CEO Mary Barra and posted on the group's Web site. "You also stated 'terrible things happened.' An immediate recall of Saturn Ions will prevent additional 'terrible things' from happening."
GM declined to comment to Automotive News about which specific vehicles are being evaluated under a renewed look at defects, which led to a recall of 1.6 million more cars and SUVs.
About 382,000 Ions would be affected by a recall if it were instituted. As we did in The Morning Shift today, refer to this great Bloomberg piece if you want to know why so many of GM's small cars from the 2000s are having quality issues.
But the biggest issue, as I see it, isn't the recalls themselves; in this day and age buyers are more or less accustomed to automakers taking care of quality or safety troubles with speed and transparency. Recalls happen. Everyone knows that.
The real problem comes when automakers know about problems for years, had opportunities to fix them, and then did not, as GM itself admits it did in the ignition switch case. That's when you really draw public ire and wade into consumer confidence issues.
We'll see if the Ion gets a recall for the power steering system, but if it does, it's going to add more fire to the question everyone has been asking: Why didn't GM just do the right thing in the first place?