Ignition switch supplier Delphi redesigned the ignition switch for the Cadillac SRX crossover to increase its torque limits about two months before making similar changes to the switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt, Automotive News reports.
Modifications to the SRX’s ignition switch took place in February 2006 in response to complaints from GM test drivers that a preproduction version of the vehicle could be accidentally turned off by bumping the ignition with their knee, a Delphi manager told safety regulators last week. The manager also submitted a document to regulators showing GM requested the changes be made, which included installing a stronger detent plunger within the switch.
Not long after in April 2006, GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio signed off on using a stronger detent plunger in the Cobalt’s ignition switch. The change solved the problem of the ignition slipping into the “accessory” position while the car is moving, which cuts power to the steering and brakes and disables the airbags in the event of a crash. DeGiorgio made the changes to the switch without changing the part number, preventing it from showing up on company records. He has since been put on paid leave.
According to the document submitted to the National Highway Traffic Administration, the February and April 2006 changes were the only two times GM requested changes be made to the ignition switches in order to increase torque. It also showed GM asked Delphi to study whether the low torque rating or detent force could allow the Cobalt’s ignition switch to shift into “accessory” mode in June 2005. That was about a month after GM began its third internal inquiry into the issue, which was ultimately closed with no action taken.
The document also revealed that since 1999, Delphi has supplied ignition switches for six GM nameplates besides the already recalled vehicles. These include the 2004-12 Chevrolet Malibu, 2005-10 Pontiac G6, 2003-07 Cadillac CTS and 2004-09 SRX, 2005-09 Saab 9-7X and 2007-10 Saturn Aura. There are no signs which allude to the fact that those vehicles used the same switch as the one involved in recent recalls.
GM spokesman Greg Martin told Bloomberg that the SRX used a different ignition switch than the Cobalt and was integrated into the crossover in a different way than in the recalled compact cars. The switch in the SRX was changed before it went on sale. “That’s why we have pre-production vehicles,” Martin said.