After Nearly 1,000 Complaints, Regulators May Open Investigation Into GM Airbag Issue

Image courtesy of Great Beyond/Rich Renomeron

General Motors isn’t making any new Saturn or Pontiac vehicles, but owners of the many Saturns and Pontiacs still on the road should have some reasonable expectation that their airbags will deploy properly when needed.

This is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working to determine if a full-scale investigation into 91,000 vehicles that contain airbags that may not deploy properly is needed.

The potential investigation, which centers on 91,205 model year 2007 to 2010 Saturn Sky and model year 2006 to 2010 Pontiac Solstice vehicles made under the General Motors banner, was initiated after the agency received more than 900 consumer complaints and a petition from one owner.

According to a notice [PDF] posted with NHTSA, the Office of Defects Investigations received a petition requesting a defect investigation into the vehicles’ airbag systems.

The petition [PDF] alleged that the Passenger Sensing System (PSS) sensor mat can break over time. If this occurs it could lead to a failure in the circuitry of the sensor mat that may lead to the passenger air bag system being inoperative when the seat is occupied by a passenger that would otherwise require air bag protection.

In addition to receiving the petition to open an investigation into the General Motors-made vehicles, NHTSA says it has received 933 complaints from owners over the issue.

“The identified complaints encompass several General Motors vehicle models in addition to the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky,” the agency says. “ODI will evaluate these complaints further to determine if the complaints pertain to the issue cited in the petition.”

Complaints submitted by owners alleged, among other things, that the issue is first noticed when the car’s “service airbag light” comes on. Subsequent visits to dealers for repair have resulted in thousands of dollars worth of repairs.

“As complained by most Saturn Sky owners this should be recalled. HUGE SAFETY ISSUE!! Is it really going to take more deaths to have this considered recall-able? I now have both airbag lights on and estimated cost of repairs is close $1500,” the owner of a 2007 Saturn Sky tells NHTSA in a complaint.

“On the right side airbag is not working, I had it checked out and they said it would be 1,050 dollars to fix it,” the owner of a 2007 Pontiac Solstice owner writes.

“My 2009 Saturn Sky, with less than 50,000 miles, displays the ’service air bag’ light in the instrument panel for no reason,” another owner writes. “The air bags have never deployed and the car has never been in an accident. I am taking it to an authorized GM dealer but this cost and problem is absurd for a car well taken care of and garage kept.”

“Passenger airbag service light came on at 67K,” the owner of a 2009 Solstice says. “The car was never involved in any accident and has no damage. Took it to a GM dealer, they want $900 to fix the faulty sensor. It should be a manufacturer recall.”

NHTSA says in its notice that the Office of Defects Investigations will evaluate the issue and determine if an investigation is warranted.

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