“This is something that could have happened to any manufacturer,” said Georgia Regents University senior Heather Doolittle, the owner of a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt. “It’s an unfortunate fact of life. Mechanical problems happen. I do not fault the company.”
Doolittle, who is studying social working, said her boyfriend’s father was involved in a fatal wreck four years ago that was linked to the faulty ignition switches that General Motors executives have admitted they knew was defective for at least a decade.
GM has linked 13 deaths to the problem, which can shut off the engine
while the car is moving, disabling power steering and brakes, and preventing air bags from inflating in the result of a crash.
Doolittle said her boyfriend’s father’s car froze on him and he drove into a tractor-trailer.
“The family is very devastated,” she said. “They are currently seeking legal representation.”
Of those killed, the majority were women
under the age of 25, a population that safety experts say is less likely to have the upper body strength to wrestle a disabled car safely to the side of the road.
Low-priced cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, also recalled in February along with other small GM cars worldwide, were marketed to young, first-time buyers and parents shopping for their kids.
For instance, 68 percent of people who now own Cobalts, which were discontinued in 2010, are 35 to 64 years old, according to the Edmunds.com automotive Web site.
Many of those buyers were at an age when they had teenage children, said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
Kelly Cooksey, a senior kinesiology major at GRU, said she got her 2006 Cobalt a few years before she moved to Augusta in 2011.
In 2010, while driving on Interstate 75 near her hometown of Tifton, Ga., the engine stopped and she had to pull into an exit lane, she said.
“It just quit working,” Cooksey said. “It scared
me. It was really dangerous.”
Cooksey said that she has had numerous engine repairs since, including a fuel injector recall, and that she is confident the problem no longer exists. She said she likes the Cobalt, because it is an “easy” and “inexpensive” fix.
“If Chevy would just get rid of recalls, everything would be great,” Cooksey said.
Adam Logemann, the general manager of Gordon Chevrolet, said about a dozen people have either called or visited the Augusta dealership in the past 10 days to schedule a repair and arrange for a courtesy car while theirs is in the shop, if necessary.
“We are just as inclined as the customers to
get the vehicles fixed,” Logemann said. “We want them to feel safe and see their vehicle as a reliable automobile.”
Doolittle said she has received two postcards
in the past six months and, on the strong urging of her boyfriend’s family, plans to get the part changed next week, during spring break.
“This is my third Chevy,” Doolittle said. “I had an Aveo and Camaro in the past. I still trust the brand.”
Information from The Associated Press was used for this article.