DETROIT - Ignition switches once again are causing problems for General Motors.
This time the company is recalling nearly 512,000 Chevrolet Camaro muscle cars from the 2010 to 2014 model years because a driver's knee can bump the key and knock the switch out of the "run" position, causing an engine stall.
That disables the power steering and brakes and could cause drivers to lose control.
GM said Friday that it knows of three crashes and four minor injuries from the problem. A spokesman said the air bags did not go off in the crashes, but GM hasn't determined if the non-deployment was caused by the switches.
GM said the Camaro switches met its specifications - unlike those at the center of a recall of 2.6 million small cars. That problem has caused more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths.
Company spokesman Alan Adler said the problem occurs rarely and affects mainly drivers who are tall and sit close to the steering column so their knees can come in contact with the key.
The Camaro switches are completely different from those in the small cars with ignition switch problems. The Camaro switches, he said, were designed by a different person, and meet GM standards for the amount of force needed to turn the cars on and off.
Currently the Camaro key is integrated like a switchblade into the Fob, which contains the buttons that let people electronically lock doors and open the trunk. GM will replace the switchblade key with a standard one, and a separate Fob attached by a ring so it will dangle from the key. Adler said with the change, if the driver's knee hits the Fob, it doesn't come in contact with the key.
"You can hit the key Fob all day long and it's not going to have any impact on the ignition," he said.
The problem was discovered during internal testing of ignition switches after the company recalled the switches in small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion earlier this year, GM said. Adler said the Camaro ignition problem was the only one found in testing of all GM models.
GM knew for more than a decade that the small-car switches were faulty, yet didn't recall them until early this year. The problem has brought federal investigations, lawsuits and a $35 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
GM also announced three other recalls on Friday, bringing the total number of vehicles recalled by the company to about 14.4 million in the U.S. and 16.5 million in North America. Earlier this year GM passed its old U.S. full-year recall record of 10.75 million vehicles set in 2004.
General Motors announced four new recalls on Friday, bringing this year's total to 38. So far the company has recalled about 14.4 million cars, trucks and SUVs in the U.S. and 16.5 million in North America. Earlier this year GM passed its old U.S. full-year recall record of 10.75 million vehicles set in 2004.
The latest recalls include:
- Almost 512,000 Chevrolet Camaros from model years 2010 to 2014 to fix an ignition switch problem. GM says in rare cases, drivers who sit close to the steering column could bump the switchblade-style keys with their knees, causing the switches to slip out of the run position. This can cause engine stalling and loss of power steering and brakes. The problem has caused three crashes and four minor injuries, GM says. The switches are different from an earlier small-car recall, and unlike the small cars, they meet GM standards for the force needed to turn them, the company says. Dealers will replace the switchblade keys with a standard key and a new Fob that is separated from the key.
- Nearly 29,000 Saab 9-3 convertibles from the 2004-2011 model years. A cable in the driver's seat belt tension system can break and the belt won't retract. Convertible seat belt parts are different from sedan parts, the company said. GM took action after finding out about customer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the statement said. Passenger belts on the 2004 models will get a lifetime warranty. GM says it knows of no crashes or injuries from the problem.
- Nearly 22,000 Chevy Sonic subcompact cars from the 2012 model year with six-speed automatic transmissions and 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines. A transmission turbine shaft can fracture, GM said. If it happens in the first two gears, the transmission won't be able to shift into higher gears. If it occurs in a higher gear, the car would coast until it slows to the point that it can downshift into first or second. The transmissions can fail if driven for a long time with the problem, GM said. Dealers will replace the shaft. The company says it knows of no crashes or injuries from the problem.
- Almost 14,800 2014 Buick LaCrosse sedans. A wiring splice in the driver's door can rust and break, messing up circuits that control the door chime and control the electric windows and sunroof. Dealers will inspect the wires and replace the splice if needed. No injuries have been reported from the problem.