In apparent response to our request, General Motors announced today that it would recall 1.3 million vehicles that may experience sudden power steering loss.
We made the request on March 19 after NLPC Associate Fellow Mark Modica found a glaring anomaly while examining documents on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. NHTSA had already ordered a recall in March 2010 of Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s for the steering loss defect but three years later had not yet ordered a recall of Saturn Ions, which have the same power steering system. In my March 19 letter to GM CEO Mary Barra, I wrote, "We do not know why NHTSA has not already ordered a recall or whether politics enter into its decision-making process. It doesn't matter. You have the authority to immediately recall these vehicles."
The housing market has been on an upswing these past few years, but the mortgage bailout is far from a distant memory. Anyone doubting as much should pore through the most recent quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or SIGTARP (see pdf). That audit, among other things, concluded that nearly 800,000 homeowners enrolled in the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) face higher monthly mortgage payments once their current subsidy runs out. The five-year-old HAMP was designed to prevent foreclosures at a time when home prices were sinking and unemployment was rising. Yet defaults, the precursor to foreclosures, have occurred at high rates anyway.
On Friday, General Motors expanded its recall of vehicles with an ignition switch defect, but Saturn Ions with a dangerous steering loss problem remain unrecalled, even though Chevy Cobalts and other models with the exact same defect were previously recalled. The two Congressional Committees holding hearings this week must directly ask GM CEO Mary Barra why these dangerous vehicles remain on the road.
It has now been almost two weeks since we requested that Barra immediately order a recall of Saturn Ions (MY 2004 to 2007) with defective electric power steering systems. GM had previously recalled Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s in 2010 which had the same defective part (as reported here) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has had an ongoing investigation on the defect for years. The fact that the cost to repair the steering column on the defective vehicles is much higher than what it cost GM to repair ignition switches on recently recalled vehicles (same vehicles, different defect) may be the reason for the delay.
Merriam-Webster.com defines compassion as, "a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc." A Google search teaming the name Mary Barra with "compassionate" pulls up a host of articles fawning over General Motors' new CEO's handling of the company's botched recalls which seem to have cost at least 12 American lives. Contrary to the media's belief that GM is a compassionate entity working in the best interests of accident victims, the facts show that the response to defects in GM vehicles and subsequent recall delays has been anything BUT compassionate.
NLPC has detailed extensively the wastefulness and folly of spending billions of taxpayer and consumer dollars to subsidize wind energy, solar energy and electric vehicles, all in the name of fighting climate change.
But the complicated, uneconomical boondoggle that Duke Energy built in Edwardsport, Ind. so as to burn coal gas rather than coal – and thus produce less carbon dioxide than a traditional coal plant – may be the dumbest idea to fight imaginary global warming to date. If you swallow the alarmists’ premise and “solutions,” the plant so far is a joke, as recent evidence shows it is using more energy than it produces.
Last week AAA released findings from tests it had run on three models of electric automobiles, and announced that the heavily subsidized vehicles suffer dramatic driving range loss in both cold and hot temperatures.
The news wasn’t new, but apparently the broader media noticed because the pronouncement from the nation’s largest consumer automotive club made it official. NLPC (beginning with a Consumer Reports experience) has reported from time to time on such problems since late 2011. The Tulsa Worldreported that AAA found driving distance for electric vehicles can be diminished up to 57 percent in extremely cold temperatures, and by one-third in very hot temperatures.
It appears that General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have still not done everything they can to assure the safety of American motorists regarding GM vehicles that have a history of dangerous defects.
The latest defect that I have uncovered relates to a loss of power steering in Saturn Ions for the model years 2004 to 2007. The same vehicles were recalled for a separate, unrelated ignition switch problem, along with the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Pontiac G5. The delay in the ignition switch recall has been blamed for the deaths of at least 12 Americans. Unfortunately, GM is equally slow in addressing the steering loss problem.
This letter is being sent today to GM CEO Mary Barra:
We ask that General Motors (the Company) recall Saturn Ions for the model years 2004 through 2007 without further delay.
These automobiles endanger the lives and safety of their drivers and passengers due to a loss of power steering, a serious problem of which the Company has been aware for several years.
According to a summary of an ongoing investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
...GM indicated that the EPS (electric power steering) system used in the subject vehicles was the same as that used in the MY2005 to 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5. In March 2010, GM recalled approximately 1.05 million Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles (NHTSA recall no. 10V-073) to correct a defect with the EPS assist motor.
Never underestimate the ability of Congress to address a problem through symbolic action. Over the weekend, Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, introduced a bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014, to phase out secondary mortgage lending corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over a five-year period and replace them with a new insurance-based system. The 442-page draft bill builds on a plan unveiled last June by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Mark Warner, D-Va. Like its predecessor, this bill rests on the faulty premise that the main problem is these companies' continued existence. Lawmakers instead should allow them to operate, but without a federal lifeline.
The New York Times hinted that the 11 year death toll for victims who drove defective General Motors' vehicles (that are just now being recalled) may rise from the current 12 confirmed fatalities. The Times reports, "Since 2003, GM has reported at least 78 deaths and 1,581 injuries involving the now-recalled cars, according to a review of agency records."
It is not clear how many of the accidents involving one of the 1.6 million now-recalled vehicles were caused by the defect. The article does state that "the records mention potentially defective components" and "regulators appear to have overlooked disturbing complaints of engine shutdowns."