February 7, 2004

GM recalls 1.8 million cars

Detroit, Michigan – General Motors is recalling about 1.8 million model year 1998-2001 cars. The models involved are certain 1998-2001 Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires built between March 1997 and April 2001. Also, some 1998 Pontiac Grand Am, Oldsmobile Achieva, and Buick Skylark cars built between March 1997 and January 1998 are being recalled. Of the total, about 1.4 million of the vehicles are in the U.S. and approximately 337,000 are in Canada. The remaining vehicles are outside these countries.

GM reports that a high electrical current flow through the ignition switch that may cause a fire in the steering column. There have been reports of 80 incidents of heat build up, melted components smoldering parts, or fires in the ignition system and steering column. There are no injuries or fatalities related to this condition and there are no reports of a fire caused by this condition while these vehicles are being driven. Most of the incidents occurred within minutes of an unsuccessful attempt to start the car; however, some incidents occurred after the car had been unattended for a longer time.

If operators experience a “click-no-crank” condition in these vehicles, they should refrain from holding the key in the start position for an extended period of time. Owners should have their vehicles checked and serviced if they are experiencing starting problems.

Due to the large number of vehicles involved in this recall, the repair process will occur in three phases. Beginning in early March, GM will begin notifying owners of the 1998-99 vehicles involved in this recall. The owners of the 1998-99 vehicles will be instructed to contact their dealers as soon as they get the letter. The owners of 2000 model year vehicles will be notified in May, asking them to contact dealers in May to arrange a service date, and the owners of 2001 model year vehicles will be contacted in June with service instructions for that month. All owners will be instructed to bring their vehicles into their Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac dealers. Dealers will install a low current relay into the ignition circuit. Additionally, they will test the ignition switch and, if necessary, replace it. These repairs will be performed at no cost to the customers.

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