GM Replaced Failing Switch Before Selling Cadillac SUV

General Motors Co., the automaker recalling 2.59 million small cars for an ignition-switch flaw, uncovered and corrected a similar fault while testing its 2007 Cadillac SRX sport-utility vehicle, documents show.

Testing engineers at the time had complained of “turning off the car with their knees while driving competitively,” according to a letter sent to U.S. regulators last week by Gary Greib, manager of product investigations at Delphi Automotive Systems LLC, GM’s ignition-switch supplier. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted the document on its website today.

Engineers fixed the flaw before the SRX went into production by using a a stronger detent plunger, the spring that holds the switch in place, Greib said in the April 11 letter to one of the regulators investigating this year’s recall of the Chevrolet Cobalt and other GM small cars. The redesigned part is in the SRX for model years 2007-2009 and isn’t affected by the recall.

The SRX used a different ignition switch than the Cobalt and was integrated into the SUV in a different manner than in the compact cars, Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, said today in a telephone interview.

The SRX switch was changed before it went on sale. “That’s why we have pre-production vehicles,” Martin said.

In its response to NHTSA, Delphi identified 12 GM models for which it supplied ignition switches, including the SRX and the six models covered in this year’s ignition switch recalls: the Saturn Ion and Sky, the Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR, and the Pontiac G5 and Solstice. A table Delphi provided to the regulator doesn’t show that any non-recalled cars used the same switch included in the recall.

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