It’s not just the Saturn Ion’s ignition switch that the Feds are interested in—it’s the power steering system too.
At least 846 complaints by Saturn Ion owners have been filed with the NHTSA since 2010. The owners have experienced sudden loss of power-steering assistance, which is the same problem that has plagued Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 owners. General Motors did recall more than one million Cobalts and G5s almost four years ago but, interestingly, not the Ion. The same electric power-steering system is used in all those vehicles, but the NHTSA hasn’t forced GM to issue a recall on the Ion.
GM claims a buildup of debris combined with oily material could cause the power steering’s motor to stop working on the Cobalt and G5. According to the NHTSA, the same issue is described in Ion complaints; sixteen crashes and two injuries have been reported.
The President of the National Legal and Policy Center, Peter Flaherty, sent a letter to GM CEO Mary Barra earlier in the week stating, “We cannot understand the delay in recalling Saturn Ions, particularly in light of your recent statement that the ignition switch recall ‘took too long.’ You also stated ‘terrible things happened.’ An immediate recall of Saturn Ions will prevent additional ‘terrible things’ from happening.”
In response, GM spokesman Jim Cain said, “We are redoubling our efforts on pending product reviews to bring them forward and resolve them quickly. We can’t sacrifice accuracy for speed.”
The NHTSA had upgraded their investigation on the Ion in September 2011 but felt it didn’t have enough evidence to order a recall, but GM offered Ion owners a warranty that covered the steering system for up to 10 years or 10,000 miles. However, the NHTSA didn’t respond to a request to comment by Automotive News.