If you own a General Motors (GM) vehicle that is subject to the company’s ignition switch recall and haven’t yet received a recall notice in the mail, you could be one of several thousand the automaker has failed to reach.
In its quarterly filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) July 25, GM said that about 6.4 percent of the 2.2 million recall notices it mailed to owners were returned as undeliverable. That’s about 140,000 Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Saturn, and other model cars, trucks and SUVs.
GM has said several times that it is aiming for a 100-percent rate of response to the ignition switch recall, but its failure to contact all owners underscores the difficulty of tracking down vehicles that may have changed hands multiple times in the past several years.
It also highlights the dangers of waiting for more than a decade to recall vehicles for a particularly dangerous defect like the ignition switch flaw. The more time passes, the more likely some vehicles will be resold, gifted, or passed down from owner to owner, requiring more time to determine who the current owners are and where they can be reached.
GM gets its owner information from IHS Automotive’s Polk, a company that tracks vehicle registration data.
GM initiated its ignition switch recall in February after the litigation of a wrongful-death lawsuit in Georgia threatened to expose the company’s failure to fix the problem and notify regulators in a timely manner as required by law.
The hypersensitive ignition switch assembly allows the ignition key to accidentally slip into the accessory or off position when the key is jostled by hitting a pothole or bump in the road, especially if the keychain is laden with additional keys, fobs, and other items. In some of the recalled models, the key itself is defectively designed.
GM vehicles with an ignition-related flaw can suddenly lose power, cutting off power steering and anti-lock brakes and making the vehicle difficult or even impossible to control properly. On top of the heightened crash risk, the flaw also deactivates the airbags, rendering them useless in a crash.
GM has linked the ignition defect to 13 deaths and 54 crashes, but those numbers are likely to increase as more data becomes available and some crashes are reexamined and scrutinized.
GM and federal safety regulators urge drivers of the affected vehicles to drive with a bare ignition key without attachments until the repairs can be made.