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GM Ignition switch debacle - Car Talk Community question

The short answer is likely yes. It hasn’t been tested in court yet, but lots of lawyers have said that any crashes that occurred before the 2009 bailout are no longer GM’s legal responsibility. And the coverup probably falls into the same category since anything they did before 2009 is not fair game anymore. If it could be proved that there was an active coverup in the new GM, then they can be used for that. It also looks like any accidents after 2009 are fair game, too. Read about it here.

“I wonder about the ignorance of drivers . . . all anyone had to do was put the transmission in neutral and they could bring the car to a controlled stop”

Not everybody is very good at thinking logically under pressure

“didn’t this failing switch give any symptoms in advance, like looseness or difficulty starting?”

Not as far as I know

There was no in between. Either everything worked, or it turned to the off position, and you were up the creek

I have had cars jump to wide open throttle and even though I consider myself better than average at keeping my cool I was lucky that the traffic was light or drivers around me were paying attention and quickly gave me room to operate. On a busy expressway I feel certain that I could shut the engine off and turn on the emergency flashers and hope to coast to the shoulder but a great many drivers won’t give so much as an inch regardless of the flashers. If the problem occurred on a long descent there would be some hope of getting off the road but otherwise I would be a ‘sitting duck.’

Yes indeed most drivers around here seem immune to signal lights when you are trying to merge or ignore the 4 ways also,Its a good thing cars have became safer because people dont realize how serious driving is, the machine carries enough force to instantly maim or kill someone-Kevin

@kmccune, they are just driving southern.

My first reaction to hearing about GM’s ignition switch issue was about how low the failure rate was. I was surprised about how they knew what the rate was given how few failures there were. (Yes, yes. I know all about computers and data extraction. I was just surprised that this was considered an issue worthy of study.)

So to the OP’s point: I suspect that a lot of the hoopla has to do with the bail-out - and justifying opposite to it.

About the failure rate…the reported failures are probably only the tip of the iceberg. How many people are going to write a complaint to NHTSA or GM when their car accidentally shuts off, but no one gets hurt? Not many. Most people will shrug it off, maybe take it to a mechanic who will find nothing wrong, and go on with life.

So the numbers that have been published about failure rates probably understate the magnitude of the problem.

Reported failure rate should be pretty accurate during the warranty period.
I wonder what the warranty claim rate was.

Reported failure rate should be pretty accurate during the warranty period. I wonder what the warranty claim rate was.

No matter what vehicle…warranty rate should be insignificant. I’ll bet 99% of all vehicles made don’t have any warranty issues. 36k miles (the norm) is pretty low mileage for problems to start showing up.

The warranty claim rate is usually a closely held secret. I used to administer warranty claims for outboard motors, and while there were very little problems with most models, the 40 HP unit we made had as high as 30% claims when used extensively. This model was a dog, and we knew it.

Industrial equipment has extremely high reliablity when used continuously. A typical API pump will have a 99.6% reliability and run 4 years continuosly in refinery operation.

That reliabiltiy works out to 0.4% chance of it failing in any one year. In other words, the unit will run virtually trouble-free for the 4 years between planned inspections and overhauls.

Consumer goods would be too expensive to make that reliable, but 10-20 years of trouble-free service should be easily possible.

I’ve never had a car without some warranty issue. My 74 Olds required a transmission part at 20K, 81 Olds alternator at about 20K, 86 Buick balancer at 50K, 08 Acura, timing belt at 30K and TPMS that never was corrected. Only manifested itself with people in the back seat. 12 Acura window molding and battery sensor as well as stuck buttons on steering wheel. 09 Pontiac cat converter. Thats what warrantees are for.

I tend to be in the camp that its pretty much a GM witch hunt. We used to burn them at the stake, now we sue them and call the Feds.

I’ve had ONE warranty on 7 different vehicles since 1986. It was on my 90 Pathfinder. One of the brackets that held the spoiler broke.

Thinking back, I’ve had only 3 warranty claims with cars since 1965. On my 1965 Dart, a U-joint went at 49,950 miles! This model had the 5 year, 50,000 mile warranty which was quite a novelty then.

I’ve had problems with the ignition switches on both my 90’s Corolla and 70’s Ford truck. And those vehicles are considerably simpler than modern cars. I think maybe complexity is part of this problem. The manufactures are trying to get the ignition switch to do too much.

One critical objective manufacturer’s should consider in the design of ignition switches is simplicity. There’s only four positions at most after all, off, on, acc, and start. A simple 4 position switch (ok, one position has to be spring loaded) that carries very little current is easy to design, and work in a robust way. Everything that is actuated as a result of the switch position IHMO should be done with easily replaced under-hood or under-dash relays. Keep the ignition switch design simple in other words.