How a Florida Engineer Found a Fatal Flaw in Chevy Cobalt

March 29, 2014, 7:43 AM


The General Motors controversy over recalls in all likelihood will be a headache for the auto giant for a long long time.

And even when public relations nightmare eventually dies down, the lawsuits will live on for quite some time.

Bill Vlasic, the New York Times' Detroit bureau chief, unravels another little piece to the puzzle with a story entitled:" An Engineer’s Eureka Moment With a G.M. Flaw."

Vlasic details how a Florida engineer had been hired by a family to sue GM over a flawed ignition switch in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt that resulted in the death of Brooke Melton in 2010 in Georgia. The car engine had shut off, resulting in the accident.    

Vlasic writes:

Somewhere inside the two-inch ignition switch from the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt was the clue that Mark Hood was seeking.

Mr. Hood, an engineer in Florida, had photographed, X-rayed and disassembled the device in the fall of 2012, focusing on the tiny plastic and metal switch that controlled the ignition. But even after hours of testing, Mr. Hood was at a loss to explain why the engine in Brooke Melton’s Cobalt had suddenly shut off, causing her fatal accident in 2010 in Georgia.

It was no small matter to her family, which had hired Mr. Hood for their lawsuit against General Motors.

Then he bought a replacement for $30 from a local G.M. dealership, and the mystery quickly unraveled. For the first time, someone outside G.M., even by the company’s own account, had figured out a problem that it had known about for a decade, and is now linked to 13 deaths.

Vlasic also writes:

Mr. Hood came to realize that G.M., and the supplier that made the part, Delphi, had quietly changed the switch sometime in 2006 or early 2007, making it less likely that an unsuspecting driver could bump the ignition key and cause the car to cut off engine power and deactivate its air bags. The change was made so quietly that G.M. hired outside consultants last year to help identify which Cobalt model years contained the original switch.


Read more:  New York Times

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