The major General Motors recall of vehicles is throwing the spotlight on a model that's been plagued with problems since it's inception, the Chevy Cobalt.

Tuesday, The New York Times revealed  information and documents showing that the car was often viewed as a lemon - even before a deadly ignition issue in various model years prompted another major recall.

At least 13 accident deaths have reportedly been linked to power steering and ignition issues. Some 700,000 of the cars were formerly recalled February 21st. of this year, after this latest issue.  In fact, a Congressional hearing was held Tuesday which included testimony from Mary T. Barra, the Chief of GM.

Although the recent recall has made it appear these problems were "new", data shows issues with the car dating clear back to it's inception in 2005.  It was designed to replace the Geo Prizm and Cavalier models.   Prior to this latest recall, GM also recalled tens of thousands of Cobalts in March 2010, and early 2012 for power steering problems and safety padding issues.

But the ignition issue has been the most telling.   According to the Times,  at least 120 times GM had to buy back cars from consumers under various state's lemon laws.   Although GM settled these claims, hundreds of other owners filed complaints and the Times says GM tried to fight some of them.  The issues included, but were not limited to:

  • While driving, the engine would abruptly shut off, rendering the power steering inoperable.  This is the issue linked to the fatalities in accidents.
  • Clutch and transmission issues made car hard to control.
  • Windows fell out - by themselves
  • Cobalts locking and unlocking themselves without warning.
  • Drivers would hear a "chime" sound, then sudden loss of steering control-also related to crashes.

The reason for the Congressional hearings is because documentation and data seem to suggest GM knew of these issues (based upon recalls and buy-backs) but continued to build the cars "as is" without correcting the problem.

According to the Times,  GM  dealers in Florida even re-sold reportedly defective "buy-back" cars at least four times!  Perhaps part of the GM problem is the attitude with which critics say they responded to the issues.  When confronted with the resale of questionable cars, a GM spokesman had this reply according to the Times:

"There is no law against reselling lemons, and a G.M. spokesman, Greg A. Martin, said the automaker “complies with all state lemon law requirements, including the resale of repurchased vehicles.”  (Bold lettering added for emphasis).

It is interesting to note that a visit to the official General Motors website, and a search using the keyword "Cobalt" turned up NO results.  Hmmm...and we tried it upper and lower case, capitlized "C".  Nothing.   The only time we could find Cobalt on the website was the recall information.  When you go to,  the model is not featured in it's drop-down or display menus of current popular models.