Newly released federal documents reveal that General Motors waited almost 10 years to recall Saturn Ions with power steering problems after 30,000 warranty repair claims and tens of thousands of owner complaints had been filed.
In March, GM finally recalled 335,000 Ions for the issue, with the list of affected vehicles including other GM models like the Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu. The recall affected a total of 1.5 million vehicles worldwide.
Federal investigators are also concerned with the role the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) may have played in recalling the vehicles too late. New documents indicate the agency failed to acknowledge the complaints issued to GM, which could have sparked an earlier recall at the request of the NHTSA.
The NHTSA's database shows that consumers began reporting power steering issues in the Ion as early as June 2004, but an investigation wasn't launched by the agency until just two years ago, amid a dozen reports of accidents and at least two injuries connected with the problem. GM did not notify the NHTSA of the consumer complaints and warranty repair claims until 2007three years after the company became aware of them.
Once GM decided to recall the models last month, the NHTSA ended its investigation. These new findings are inciting rage among safety advocates who question whether the government agency is performing its duties up to standards.
Republican Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) told AP that the new findings raise, more troubling concerns about GM's and NHTSA's actions as well as questions about whether NHTSA has the capability to effectively do its job.
Neither GM nor the NHTSA are in the clear for their actions relating to the power steering defects, or those surrounding the ignition switch recall initiated in February. GM admitted it was aware of the problem for 10 years before any recall was initiated, and criticism of the NHTSA is continuing to mount.
Victims claim GM's confirmation of 13 deaths related to the recalled vehicles is lower than the actual numbers.