As stated elsewhere, About.com does not cover every recall by a manufacturer but this one is significant because GM has recalled more than 1.3 million used Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Saturns from 2003 to 2007 for an ignition switch problem. That's a prime market for used car buyers.
According to the official GM announcement, "General Motors is expanding the recall of certain 2003-2007 model year vehicles to correct a condition with the ignition switch that may allow the key to unintentionally move or switch to the 'accessory' or 'off' position, turning off the engine and most of the electrical components on the vehicle."
As you can imagine, that could prevent a significant problem for someone driving the used cars. It could leave you without power steering and power brakes as well as shutting off engine power in potentially dangerous situations. As reported by USA Today, "GM … increased the number of deaths it links to the problem from six to 13 and the number of crashes from 22 to 31."
USA Today also reported, "Still unexplained by GM is an apparently safer switch, with a different part number, installed in all of these vehicles starting in 2008. None have been recalled. GM won't say if the switch was revised to fix the stalling and air bag problem. Nor will it say if that later switch is the one dealers will use as the replacement for the recall repair on the older vehicles.
GM is recalling these vehicles because the ignition switch torque performance may not meet GM specifications. If the torque performance is not to specification, and the key ring is carrying added weight or the vehicle goes off road or experiences some other jarring event, the ignition switch may inadvertently be moved out of the “run” position.
The timing of the key movement out of the “run” position, relative to the activation of the sensing algorithm of the crash event, may result in the airbags not deploying, increasing the potential for occupant injury in certain kinds of crashes.
Dealers will replace the ignition switch to prevent the unintentional or inadvertent key movement. Until this correction is performed, customers should use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring. As always, customers should drive responsibly and use their safety belts.
According to GM, "In addition to 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada only, GM is separately recalling 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky models. The affected U.S. vehicle population, including those vehicles recalled Feb. 13, totals 1,367,146."
GM continues with its recall message, "As part of the recall, GM is taking steps to address customer concerns and working with its suppliers to increase parts production and accelerate availability. GM will notify all affected customers that in addition to recalling their vehicles and performing repairs at no charge to them, GM and its dealers will work with customers on an individual, case-by-case basis to minimize inconvenience associated with the recall.
“Ensuring our customers’ safety is our first order of business,” said GM North America President Alan Batey. “We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.”
Going beyond required written notification, GM, through its customer care centers and social media teams, is using customer records and communications channels to notify affected customers of the recall and additional actions the company is willing to take to relieve their concerns and minimize inconvenience.
So, should you never buy a used car that has been recalled? Of course not because they often run great after having the recall work done. Just make sure the work has been done and the seller can verify the completed work.
As we point out, "Always do a background check. Do a check at CarFax.com/recall for a list of used cars that are affected by recalls. Carfax receives open recall information for Acura, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hummer, Hyundai, Isuzu, Jeep, Kia, Lincoln, Lotus, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Pontiac, Porsche, Saab, Saturn, Subaru, Suzuki and Volvo vehicles."
Also, "More detailed information about specific recall campaigns is available at www.safercar.gov and www.iihs.org. Find out when the recall was issued because that will help you negotiate a price. SaferCar.gov works best if you do not have a vehicle identification number (VIN)."