CALL 6: Bloomington driver crashes car because of power steering defect

Safety experts: Vehicle should have been in recall
Posted at 5:08 PM, Jun 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-29 19:48:47-04

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Call 6 Investigates has uncovered a concerning car defect that left a Bloomington woman injured after she lost control of her vehicle. 

Ivy Sutton, 57, of Bloomington was accident free for more than 40 years.

That is, until March 22, when she got into her 2011 Chevy HHR and headed to the store.

“The power steering light came on, and I couldn’t control it,” said Sutton.

Sutton went into a ditch and crashed into a tree.

“It scared me,” said Sutton. “I was like, ‘what do I do?’”

When Sutton started researching what happened, she found GM issued a massive power steering recall in 2014, which included 2009 and 2010 HHRS, but not the 2011 model.

More than 1.3 million vehicles were covered by that recall, including:

  • Chevrolet Malibu: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some model year 2006 and model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles
  • Chevrolet Malibu Maxx: All model year 2004 and 2005, and some 2006 model year
  • Chevrolet HHR (Non-Turbo): Some model year 2009 and 2010 vehicles
  • Chevrolet Cobalt: Some model year 2010 vehicles
  • Saturn Aura: Some model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles
  • Saturn ION: All model year 2004 to 2007 vehicles
  • Pontiac G6: All model year 2005, and some model year 2006 and model year 2008 and 2009 vehicles
  • Service parts installed into certain vehicles before May 31, 2010 under a previous safety recall  

Had Sutton’s car been included in the recall, she would have received a free repair years ago.

“I probably would have gotten mine fixed and been on my way,” said Sutton. 

General Motors told Sutton in a May 26 email that they found a Diagnostic Trouble Code in her power steering system that indicated she was not the cause of the crash on March 22. 

“I said, ‘are you going to replace my car, because you are admitting it’s your fault and it was power steering that caused the accident?’” 

After Call 6 Investigates started asking questions, GM offered Ivy Sutton a $2,000 voucher toward another car.

"A $2,000 voucher is just unacceptable to me," said Sutton.

Sutton’s case is catching the attention of Safety Research and Strategies, a national research firm specializing in motor vehicle safety.

“Obviously what Ivy experienced was a safety hazard,” said Sean Kane, President of Safety Research and Strategies. “She crashed her car, and that car was no longer usable. It should have been recalled."

Kane was shocked to see General Motors put in writing a power steering problem was to blame for the crash.

“This is a known defect that GM should remedy,” said Kane.  “Ivy clearly had the same kind of problem, and they told her it wasn’t her fault. They have an obligation to do something about it.”

Kane said GM has had a documented problem with its electronic power steering systems, but recalls are expensive for car companies.

“A lot of times it's the big pile of complaints, you look at a bell curve, you look at the top, you slice it off the top and you say OK we're going to get these and often that's good enough,” said Kane. “Folks who are on the outside of the curve are simply collateral damage."

Kane said General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should strongly consider expanding the power steering recall to include other makes and models, including the 2011 Chevy HHR.

“There’s clear evidence that other vehicles should have been included in the recall were not,” said Kane.

General Motors released a statement to RTV6:

"Safety recalls cover a specific, identified defect in a group of vehicles. The recall on the HHRs covered a defect in the power steering motor that occurred in a specific population of those vehicles. There are any number of things that can cause problems with the power steering (and other systems) in older vehicles. Most of them are not going to be covered by recalls. Customers should always do a VIN search on the NHTSA site to see if a problem is covered by a recall. Chevy customers can also contact our customer assistance center if they have questions."

Insurance paid for Ivy Sutton’s crashed car, but she is currently without a vehicle and wants GM to replace the HHR.

Sutton said she is currently suffering from back and neck pain, and is on anxiety medication as a result of the March 22 crash.

"I wish it never happened, but at least I hit a tree and not somebody else, or killed somebody else or myself," said Sutton. “I’m in pain every day. I had pain before,  but it seems the pain is more than it was before.”

She hopes to warn drivers their car may have a power steering defect, even if it’s not covered by a recall.

"I want people to know this is a serious problem," said Sutton.

With the help of Sean Kane, Sutton is trying to get more data about her vehicle from General Motors.

Call 6 Investigates requested additional data about the crash, but General Motors did not provide it.

Sutton is also considering filing a small claims lawsuit.

A NHTSA spokesperson told Call 6 Investigates they are looking into the power steering issue Ivy experienced.

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