The number of complaints and claims with the power steering issue appears to be high when compared with other recent recalls that were preceded by NHTSA investigations. In March, three recalls — none of which were GM vehicles — were issued after two or fewer complaints. There were 29 warranty claims in one case, 263 in another and none in the third investigation. All three cases covered fewer vehicles than the Ion recall.
A search of the agency’s database records shows that Ion owners started complaining about power steering failures as early as June 2004, and the first injury accident was reported to NHTSA in May 2007. The owner of a 2004 Ion reported driving 25 mph and tried to turn the steering wheel, but it locked, and the car crashed into a tree.
“Saturn stated the vehicle is not a defect,” the complaint said.
Another driver who filed a complaint in July 2010 said that one evening, “midway around a bend, my vehicle’s electric power steering went out and straightened my wheel, putting me into oncoming traffic.”
“I could have died and killed another driver,” said that person, who also owned a 2004 Saturn Ion.
GM spokesman Greg Martin wouldn’t comment directly on the Ion power steering Saturday, but pointed out a quote from the company’s new global safety chief Jeff Boyer when GM issued the power steering recall.
“We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough,” Boyer said in March. “With these safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right.”
Martin also said GM has created a team that includes safety in the company’s product development.
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