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Bad timing: GM recalls 1.3 million cars

Posted by: David Welch on March 02, 2010

Well, so much for racing through the gap left open by Toyota’s recall saga. General Motors said late Monday that it will recall 1.3 million compact cars to fix a power steering problem.

The timing is terrible. GM may have just benefitted from Toyota’s problems as the company’s sales rose 11.5% in February. The more important number is that sales for the four brands it is keeping —Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC—rose 32% in the month. That’s a sign that GM found some buyers who might have shopped Toyota otherwise.

Keeping that momentum just got a little tougher. GM said that the company will start the recall following 1,100 complaints about the power steering in its small cars. GM is recalling the 2005 through 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 through 2010 Pontiac G5, 2005 and 2006 Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada and the 2005 and 2006 Pontiac G4 sold in Mexico.

The company can hope that its big recall will be lost in the shuffle of Toyota’s ongoing recall problems and the related government hearings. Toyota’s problems give all of its rivals a chance to prove that their cars are as good as, or better than Toyota’s models. Honda can make that claim. Its quality scores have been good for years. Hyundai and Ford have been making progress for several years, giving them a credible story. GM has been making headway with quality but still had a lot of work to do to convince consumers that its cars are just as good as those sold by Toyota.

At a time when recalls are big news, this is a set back. Recalls happen all the time and this one pales next to the 8 million cars Toyota has recalled recently. So, GM may still be able to take advantage of Toyota’s big stumble. At the least, consumers will view Toyota’s quality on a more even field with most other carmakers. But GM just gave the skeptical consumers that the company needs to win over a reason to believe that it hasn’t closed the quality gap.

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Reader Comments

malibu owner

March 2, 2010 05:06 PM

i just had a power steering problem with my 2006 malibu which isn't listed on the recall.

LIsa Merriam

March 2, 2010 05:21 PM

Worse than bad timing. Even with the recalls, people remain loyal to the Toyota brand. Even people who were wary of Toyota now would still pick it over any US brand. Just goes to show how investing in a strong brand and delivering a strong product gives you some protection from disaster. My company In Context Opinion, did video market research last week, and here are some snippets of what people had to say:


March 2, 2010 05:44 PM

One could argue good timing, as maybe the scare of what Toyota is going through got them to act faster and broader as opposed to dragging their feet. Hopefully ALL the automakers will put their customers safety first, and step up and do the right thing when it becomes apparent something is wrong. All automakers have recalls, it's nothing new.

Doug Hackett

March 2, 2010 05:54 PM

GM should consider recalling the 2000 and 2001 Chevy S10's for Fuel gauge problems. I have heard of at least five people say they are having the same issue. Mine when you sit at a light it goes to empty if you move and hit the brakes a little hard it will go back to normal until you set again as so do the other 4. Some times mine showes a little discharge on the batter gauge.Is there a possibility it could be a hazard?


March 2, 2010 06:43 PM

Agreed, my 06 Pontiac G6 has an issue with the U arm on the steering column. Its not a recall but feels like the tire is going to fall off when driving. My guess its relative to all this.


March 2, 2010 06:45 PM

Two years ago my wife took her 2005 Ford Escape to a Ford dealer because of a - guess what - sticky accelerator. They "fixed" the problem (charging for the service) and calmly explained to her that it was caused by accumulated dirt on a plastic piece, and that with time it will happen AGAIN. At least Toyota is CORRECTING their problem, and not charging a penny for it.


March 2, 2010 07:20 PM

I recently reported same steering problems to GM on my pontiac g6. They did nothing for me, nor is my car part of recall. I also did my own investigating and found many people with same issues. GM has a much larger problem on their hands, but what will it take for them to really take care of it?

Adria K

March 2, 2010 07:42 PM

Isn't this ironic. I just spent too much money to have my electronic power steering system replaced on my 2005 Chevy Malibu last month. This steering problem, I found from googling the topic, has been a problem for a few years now. I am confused as to why the Malibus aren't on the list.


March 2, 2010 07:49 PM

I have had several power steering issues w my 2005 malibu maxx an its not listed

James Troxclair

March 2, 2010 07:53 PM

On 9/09 I brought my 2008 Malibu LTZ to the dealer for a Moldy Smell caused by the AC unit leaking water into the passenger side of the car. The water was going under the carpet and it went to the back seating area on both sides and it started to smell moldy real bad. The dealer changed the interior carpet and said that they fixed the problem with the AC leak at the firewall.
It still smelled moldy real bad after, they sprayed stuf in the AC unit to no avail, then they had a company treat the car using Ozone generators to kill the moldy smell inside of the car. The smell came back again after 4 mo. and they will pump Ozone back inside again.
This is the 7th time I return for the bad moldy smell problem.


March 2, 2010 08:50 PM

Now that GM will be producing cars from china, you can expect more such frequent recalls by millions, or is it looking to American taxpayer to bail them out again?


March 2, 2010 09:47 PM

@Lisa Merriam.. your post is very profound. IMAGE means a lot and Toyota still has some goodwill chits. It took the big 3 about 35 years to tank via continuous management stupidity (Japan automakers should thank all of the wonderful finance MBA's that made it possible) while giving away the store to the UAW. You can see it in the fact that GM and Ford (Chrysler is still TBD)make cars now that are competitive or (in my opinion usually) better than Japan Inc but try to get younger buyers in a Buick. What will take longer, the luster of Japanese autos to fade or Detroit iron to shine? Image means a lot and I dont think Toyota is going to bone it.

Wilf Brown

March 2, 2010 10:24 PM

I have a problemn with power steering on my 2005 Malibu which is not on the recall list.


March 2, 2010 10:26 PM

I have a 2006 that is having a Powersteering problem as well. The dealership says it cost 97 to even get it tested.

marcha frater

March 2, 2010 10:36 PM

I have a 2006 cobalt and when i started having issues i took my car to the dealer and they told me it was nothing they could do about. they also said that the insurance that i paid for doesnt cover the part and I would have to pay out of pocket. No one would tell me way the part was not covered and i did not like that at all so i need to know what to do to get my car fixed. Im a true chevy girl and i love how they drive and dont want to believe otherwise. A true chevy fan


March 2, 2010 10:37 PM

I have a 2006 Pontiac G6 Gt with the same steering problem.


March 2, 2010 11:12 PM

Honda may well be the last Japenese carmaker standing! Let's see "The power of dreams!"!


March 3, 2010 01:46 AM

Surprise ... Just a matter of time til BK2!

Impala Owner

March 3, 2010 08:41 AM

I returned a 2006 Impala for the same dangerous power steering problem finding there are more of the same year and make. Reported it to Dept. of Transportation in DC, GM, GMAC, NJ consumer of affairs, dealership the car was purchased (who by the way is now closed) and after the return not surrender and an excellent payment history, a year and half later GMAC attempted to go after me for the remaining balance. GM does not support their product with such a dangerous situation that happened 6 times at highway speed. I am going into litigation because they reported to my credit agency I did not pay as agreed and charged off. How is this right with a product so dangerous.


March 3, 2010 09:18 AM

I hate to hear of a recall for anything, but if something is wrong, it needs to be fixed. It's the right thing to do. At least GM is seeming to attack the problem head on, unlike Toyota who self-admittedly drug its feet with their cars' issues.


March 3, 2010 09:21 AM

At least a power steering unit problem is easier to comprehend. It is also less deadly than the Toyota problems. Besides, the issues I have with Toyota is how they handled it - first blame the stupid US driver, then blame the stupid US lot boy who installed the mat, then blame the US company that build the part to Toyota's specs and lastly refuse to admit the problem is the fault of the designers, engineers, decision makers in Japan.


March 3, 2010 09:22 AM

I wonder how the crow tastes at GM -- and in Washington DC (60% ownership remember) -- this morning? Funny how a company that led the way in specifically targeting Toyota owners with $1,000 rebates to take advantage of Toyota's recall situation now has to admit they make flawed cars too. Look, Toyota should suffer consequences from the government and lawsuits for any safety-issue cover-up if one exists. And the free-market will have its say too as people vote with their wallet. But for a competitor –- one saddled a nasty bankruptcy that screwed taxpayers and a history of making some pretty crappy product -- to then try to kick someone while their down is just uncalled for. And karma is a b*tch. Every automaker makes mistakes -- big ones. To go off and act like one is above judgment as GM did –- only to have it blow up in their face (a walking PR nightmare that company is thanks to and endless stream of overpromising and under delivering –- even now) won't win them any favors with a public they sorely need to show up in their showrooms.


March 3, 2010 10:55 AM

Why is the recall being limited to the Chev Cobalt, Pontiac G4/G5 and Pontiac Pursuit? There have been many power steering failures on Chev Malibu's and Malibu MAXX's, too---65% of Malibu complaints filed with the NHTSA are for this problem. I have a 2004 Malibu MAXX and the steering column/power steering has had to be replaced 3 times within 110,000 miles for failing. It seems that all GM vehicles with electronic power steering assist problems should be included in this recall.


March 3, 2010 10:58 AM

Let's face it if you're buying a GM car or truck right now you're pretty much ignoring published statistics about build quality, reliability, etc. So I doubt this will hurt them much.
BTW I'm pretty sure GM has admitted year after year they make crap, I guess some people appreciate honesty.

Philip Zivnuska

March 3, 2010 07:03 PM

I own a 2006 Cobalt SS Supercharged that was one of the 14 crashed cars from this defect. If your car ever loses the power assist for steering, PARK IT!

Modern cars have responsive steering ratios and small steering wheels that make it unsafe to drive with manual steering. I am old enough to remember manual steering cars, most Cobalt drivers are not. This is especially true when the failure comes on unexpectedly and instantly.

Philip S. Zivnuska


March 3, 2010 07:21 PM

I just had my '07 Camry pedal problem looked after at a local dealer! otherwise, I have not had any problems.
in many ways it the best car I ever got. and I got Olds', Pontiac GP's and Ford CVs, etc.
I chose Camry over Fussion and Malibu even though it cost me more.
Toyota will rebound, for sure.


March 3, 2010 08:51 PM

i for one was totally against the federal governments ( US and Canada ) bailing out both GM and Chysler .... their products for the last 20 plus years have been nothing but a cash drain for the consumer . Have driven nthing but Honda's and toyota's for the last 16 years and have barely had to put any money into them but for wear items like brakes ; tires and oil changes .
I would have rather if they had given money as a low interest loan than to assume majority ownership . This just reaks of potential corruption for people who act as protection for it its citizens with safety and regulatory control over the auto industry .


March 3, 2010 11:01 PM

I just cannot believe it. My 1985 Olds 98 had this same steering problem in 1985 and here it is 2010 and GM cars have yet to fix the glitch. Our government says Toyota is slow to fix their problems? Congress really needs to check this one out. Oh, by the way I had to pay 100% of the repair costs. However, I learned if the replacement part was a GM brand they would only warranty for 90 days. A name brand aftermarket replacement would cover the fix under their warranty for 5 years. You can guess which part brand I selected for a replacement.


March 5, 2010 03:07 AM

The thing that makes me angry over this whole situation is not the "problems" in these cars, but the rather stirred up media frenzy over the whole thing. Have you noticed people only complain after the fact recalls come out? Have you noticed how everyone is deathly afraid of any vehicle now?
I honestly blame the media! Also, why is it that the US media seems to be the only one to care? Here in Canada, we have a large number of the same recalled vehicles from all the makers, yet no one is this alarmed. I think everyone needs a nice deep breathe. Whether you drive a Toyota, GM, VW, Hyundai, your more than likely safe.


March 5, 2010 05:26 AM

2008 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Power steering dies every morning on my way home from work.

Brought it in to have them check it, they told me they can't do anything unless it is showing the issue when I pull into the garage.

It is very true that something should be done about the Malibus.


March 5, 2010 12:24 PM

I have a 2006 Saturn Ion, and of course the electric power steering motor has been dying on me. After calling Saturn, GM, and the NHTSA, I am told that the Ion is not a part of the recall. I find this hard to believe since it is the exact same part that has failed on the Cobalt, and actually the Saturn is believed to be the platform that the Cobalt was based on.


March 7, 2010 02:58 PM

I have a malibu maxx lt 2006, bought Sept 2008.
Recently,while driving in Toronto and turning left, the power steering stopped - fortunately my speed was minor and was able to avoid a crash
Spoke w/ CSRs 3x's @ GM 1-800 lines to be told there havent been any other complaints (this was prior to March's recall on other GM cars for the same issue)
Have contacted GM requesting direct to a supervisor and did receive a call back within 72 hours
I have had 2 concerns during speeds over 50 km that the power steering crashed -
I have had the PS reader come on when I started my vehicle 3 times when the weather was below 0 since January - mileage is under 82,000 km (higway)
Last year when taking my car in for servicing I was told by the dealer that "ma'am we are in a recession and these issues are minor......."
I was not home when the supervisor called Friday March 5th but am looking forward to calling them on Monday to hear their responses


March 8, 2010 11:14 AM

I have a 2006 G6 with only 36,000 and it has had a steering issue for the last couple of years. I have been holding out thinking it would soon be recalled. From what I have read on line this is a know problem and I was under the impression it was the same issue the Cobalt was having. How is it that they excluded a similar platform? Is there a email address at GM that everyone that has a issue with a car excluded from this recall could voice there issues to?


March 9, 2010 12:37 PM

I bought a 2005 chev malibu maxx 15 months ago. Since I've owned this car, I have had three power steering problems. This car is either a lemon or it should be on the recall list.


March 14, 2010 11:40 AM

Yes, Toyota has such good will. Kelly Blue Book has finally downgraded their used values and KBB is the most tone deaf of the price guides. Black Book did it months ago. I'd say Toyota value has tanked at auction but the truth is, nobody knows. Toyotas don't even get bid at auction. They just roll on past the block because no dealer wants the potential liability, or a piece of inventory that will sit for months because nobody wants them.

Toyota's new sales figures are following, with the lowest sales in 10 years over the last two months and it's destined to only get worse. As a dealer who has bought and sold for over a decade I say FINALLY! This myth of Toyota quality needed to die a long time ago. At best they build average cars, and sub-par trucks and the service costs from thousands of vehicles make that abundantly clear.


March 15, 2010 07:26 PM

Just wondering why this recall isn't all over CNN or the Government is not ordering them to stop building cars until the problem is fixed.Probably because the Government has alot invested in GM.It is in there best interest to see Toyota taken down a peg.Obviously saftey regulations have to be increased and monitored more for ALL car companies not just the one the Government doesn't own a piece of.


March 17, 2010 03:07 PM

See if any other GM vehicles made Consumer Reports' top picks for 2010. We also have lists of the best and worst new and used cars for this year, along with a lot of other helpful information. It's all available on our free online article for the Consumer Reports April Autos Issue:


March 17, 2010 09:03 PM

None of the following is an exaggeration. I have a 1992 Toyota with 195k miles on it. Because I only by what a need, a few years ago I took the ridiculous approach of trying to kill the car by abusing the daylights out of it so that I would have a legit reason to buy a newer car. I would make air going over the railroad tracks by work each day, racing every car on the on ramps to the highway, and riding it like a baja car on dirt roads on camping trips. Seriously, I even quit changing the oil. Well, after 5 years of this abuse, I finally got my wish when my son turned 16 and a gifted the car to him. I then purchased a sweet looking used 98 Grand Prix with 11k miles on it. In the past 8 years I have spent at least 8 thousand dollars on this piece of crap. Amazing when you consider I only paid 12 thousand for it. Now I have so much money into it that I feel I have to drive it into the ground. By the way my son is still driving the Toyota when he visits from college. It really riles me when I consider what is happening out there politically with the unions exempting themselves from portions of the health nightmare. They are the crooks who made this pile of metal they call a car. Would I buy a Toyota over the junk Pontiac, or the Mitsubishi that quit at 85k, or the Chrysler I had in the 80's that a known brake problem that was never fixed by the dealer? You bet!


March 18, 2010 11:21 AM

Hey ScottLC!!
Just hope in the future GM or FORD do not recall for a brake problem too. If that happens their value will also tank at the auctions. Toyota made a mistake this time. They are not perfect but they are far more better than GM or Ford who make junk cars. Just because Toyota had this brake problem does not mean it has been a bad company. Toyota has been better. The brake error has caused him Toyota its reputation. In the future, GM or Ford will face a massive recall too and you will see Toyota rise back. That won't be long because GM and Ford make sh*t cars anyway.


March 19, 2010 11:56 AM

See how Ford stacked up against the Chevrolet Silverado in the newest rankings from Consumer Reports. The April Autos Issue is just out, and contains great information and ratings, including best/worst cars of the year and the top picks for 2010. You can view the issue for free online at


March 30, 2010 02:37 AM

The pontiac owners who have been having the steering issues. Are you feeling a vibration? Is it a popping noise? Or is it a complete system failure? My friend had an 06 G6 and the only issue she ever had with it was caused by bad brake jos. I had an 99 Malibu. When I got it it had been sitting for 3 years because it had a cracked block. The craked block turned out to be a bad intake manifold gasket so 45 bucks later I had a great car. The 3.4 and 3.8 roller motors that GM makes are some of the strongest engins I have ever seen. Mine ran for months with coolant in the oil and sat through three winters with straight water sitting in the coolant system and (after I replaced the gasket) I put it through hell. I drove it off the side of the highway at 70 mph and she was still running. My first car was an 83 buick lesaber. Paid 300 bucks for it and ran it straight into the ground. I put 20k miles on it in less than a year. What killed was was my own stupidity. And it still ran when they hauled it off to be crushed. I am currently driving a 92 silverado with a 4.3l v6. I've got about 190k on it and it's showing no signs of stopping. So I'm sorry but I think I'll stay where I'm at.


April 3, 2010 01:34 PM

My parents are on there way to texas in my 2006 malibu and the power steering light is on. After doing some research about this issue and seeing how wide spead it is, If this KNOWN issue causes an accident while my 64 yr old father and mother are useing this car I WILL FILE A LAWSUIT this problem IS known and dangerous and the malibu SHOULD HAVE BEEN on the recall list.


April 7, 2010 06:45 PM

toyota in business week


April 22, 2010 04:07 PM

I own a 2005 malibu max that is having power steering issues. it was nearly impossible to turn the wheel. i tried it again later and the message was gone and it was what point does GM decide this is an issue??? This should be on the recall also. It is going to cost me around six hundred dollars to get it repaired. who knows how long the "fix" will last.


April 22, 2010 05:42 PM

i have a 2010 gmc terrain with under 1000 miles i am really disappointed with the quality control; bolts on rear hatch loose paint starting to peel dash has wide gap ; and they are not telling customers about the noisy direct fuel injector under the hood.

Kathleen Whitt

April 26, 2010 08:32 PM

I am having problems with my 2006 Maliby Maxx power steering and it is becoming more frequent. I lost my power steering 10 times in 15 miles today and it is now undrivable, it is too dangerous. The wheel jerks hard at times also. Why isn't it on the recall list and does anyone know who to contact about this?

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