GM: Recall cars safe to drive with key alone – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — General Motors conducted more than 100 vehicle tests on four of some 2.6 million recalled vehicles to determine they are safe to drive with nothing attached to the key ring, the company said in documents posted by a the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
NHTSA released the safety report from GM, which said it conducted the tests over various road services and in other conditions in an attempt to make sure keys don’t inadvertently get jostled out of position, shutting off the engine.
GM has resisted calls to ask drivers to park the Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other vehicles in the wake of a ignition switch recall that began in February. The company has come under fire for missing or ignoring warning signs that keys could inadvertently move out of position, disabling power brakes, steering and potentially causing air bags not to deploy in the event of a crash.
So far 13 deaths and 32 crashes have been linked to the defect which led to the recall.
U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., have been pressing federal officials to encourage GM to park the vehicles. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said last week NHTSA was satisfied that the “safety risk posed by the defect in affected vehicles is sufficiently mitigated” if drivers take GM’s advice.
That advice is to drive with the key alone in the ignition of with all additional weight removed from the key ring — even the remote fob. In the report posted on the NHTSA’s website, GM said it tested four recalled vehicles at its proving ground in Milford. In more than 100 tests with nothing attached to the key or an empty key ring, there were no instances of the key moving in the ignition.
The test vehicles included a 2005 Cobalt, a 2007 Ion, a 2008 Chevrolet HHR and a 2006 Pontiac Solstice, and the vehicles were driven over rough surfaces including granite road blocks and stones, rumble strips, simulated potholes, and a 4-inch tall wooden median at various speeds. There were also tests involving sudden braking, and ones where the plungers in the ignition switch which help keep the key in position were removed.
While the tests showed the key did move from “run” to “accessory” in some cases where there was more weight attached to the key ring, they did not shift when there was no weight on the ring other than the vehicle key.
And GM said Wednesday that it did not specifically test the vehicles for propensity for the driver’s knee to bump the key out of position — some critics alleged that the position of the switch also is a problem — in none of the tests did that happen.
Initially, it was reported that GM had done more than 80 tests showing no incidents of unintended key rotation, but the company then did an additional 16 tests with the ignition switch detent plunger and spring removed. The test results still showed no cases where the key moved by itself under adverse road conditions with little or no weight on the key.