Ignition switches once again are causing problems for General Motors.
This time the company is recalling nearly 512,000 Chevrolet Camaro muscle cars from the 2010 to 2014 model years because a driver's knee can bump the key and knock the switch out of the "run" position, causing an engine stall.
That disables the power steering and brakes and could cause drivers to lose control.
GM said Friday that it knows of three crashes and four minor injuries from the problem. A spokesman said the air bags did not go off in the crashes, but GM hasn't determined if the non-deployment was caused by the switches.
GM said the Camaro switches met its specifications—unlike those at the center of a recall of 2.6 million small cars. That problem has caused more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths.
Company spokesman Alan Adler said the problem occurs rarely and affects mainly drivers who are tall and sit close to the steering column so their knees can come in contact with the key.
The Camaro switches are completely different from those in the small cars with ignition switch problems. The Camaro switches, he said, were designed by a different person, and meet GM standards for the amount of force needed to turn the cars on and off.
Currently the Camaro key is integrated like a switchblade into the Fob, which contains the buttons that let people electronically lock doors and open the trunk. GM will replace the switchblade key with a standard one, and a separate Fob attached by a ring so it will dangle from the key. Adler said with the change, if the driver's knee hits the Fob, it doesn't come in contact with the key.
"You can hit the key Fob all day long and it's not going to have any impact on the ignition," he said.
The problem was discovered during internal testing of ignition switches after the company recalled the switches in small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion earlier this year, GM said. Adler said the Camaro ignition problem was the only one found in testing of all GM models.
GM knew for more than a decade that the small-car switches were faulty, yet didn't recall them until early this year. The problem has brought federal investigations, lawsuits and a $35 million fine from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
GM also announced three other recalls on Friday, bringing the total number of vehicles recalled by the company to about 14.4 million in the U.S. and 16.5 million in North America. Earlier this year GM passed its old U.S. full-year recall record of 10.75 million vehicles set in 2004.