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Lawsuit indicates GM knew of Cobalt defect in 2004

by Drew Johnson

Did GM really wait a decade to recall a fatal flaw in its Chevy Cobalt?

A civil lawsuit claims that General Motors knew about an ignition defect in its Chevrolet Cobalt small car as early as 2004, but waited until 2014 to issue a recall. The ignition issue causes the Cobalt's engine to shutoff unexpectedly, cutting the vehicle's power brakes, power steering, anti-lock brakes and airbags.

According to documents obtained by USA Today, at least one GM engineer discovered the Cobalt ignition fault in 2004. A year later in 2005, GM issued a technical service bulletin advising dealers to install a snap-on key cover to help with the problem, but only if the customer complained. However, Gary Altman, program engineering manager for Cobalt during its development, admitted in a deposition last year that the key cover was an "improvement, it was not a fix to the issue.”

The lawsuit was filed by the estate of Brooke Melton, who died in 2010 behind the wheel of her 2005 Cobalt. Melton's car suddenly lost power while she was driving at nearly 60mph, causing her to skid out and hit another vehicle.

Melton's car was at the dealership the day before her fatal crash for the very same ignition issue that prompted GM's recall last week. Her car was not fitted with the snap-on key cover or any other kind of fix.

Melton bought her Cobalt new in 2005.

GM recalled 778,562 Cobalts and its mechanical twin, the Pontiac G5, last week, citing an ignition switch that could pop out of the "run” position into "accessory" or "off.” GM said six deaths have been been linked to the defect.

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