General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) announced yesterday that they were issuing a safety recall for the ignition switch of 778,552 GM subcompact sedans sold in North America (619,122 in the U.S.). The recall includes 2005- to 2007-model Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007-model Pontiac G5s, among other vehicles.

General Motors also announced a major recall of 1.5 million vehicles in China a couple of months ago.

General Motors

Avoid extra weight on key ring

It turns out the recall safety issue is related to extra weight on a key ring or a jarring blow to the steering wheel or column causing the ignition switch to turn off. According to documents that the General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “the switch may fail if a key ring is carrying added weight or the vehicle goes off road or experiences some other jarring event.” In cases of failure, the switch could possibly be “moved out of the ‘run’ position.”

The filings also highlight an additional safety risk in the case of a crash, given the timing of the key movement in the ignition switch could result in the air bags not deploying.

General Motors: Twenty-two possibly related crashes

The documents filed with the NHTSA also state that the General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) is aware of 22 crashes and six fatalities related to the ignition switch in 2005- to 2007-model Chevrolet Cobalts and 2007-model Pontiac G5s.

In an interview with Reuters, GM also admitted that it is aware of five front-impact crashes and six fatalities in accidents where the front airbags did not deploy. The company, however, emphasized that all were high-speed accidents where fatalities are more likely. Furthermore, alcohol consumption and not wearing seat belts were also factors in some of the accidents.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) dealers will replace the ignition switch free of charge to correct the problem. GM also urges owners of these vehicles to not put any heavy items on their key rings until they have had a new ignition switch installed.