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Lawsuits claim GM recall not wide enough

WASHINGTON – General Motors Co., facing lawsuits in the United States and Canada over faulty ignition switches, may not have recalled all the Chevrolet Cobalts with the defects, according to two complaints filed Monday against the automaker.

While the flawed switches prompted GM to recall 1.6 million cars, including Cobalts for the model years 2005-2007, defects that have been linked to deaths weren’t all fixed, according to a complaint filed by 13 customers in federal court in San Francisco. A second lawsuit in Alabama state court cites technical service bulletins that GM allegedly sent to dealers alerting them that keys may “stick” or “bind” in the ignition cylinders of nonrecalled Cobalts and other cars.

The San Francisco complaint includes a claim that faulty key systems persist in Cobalts through 2010, while the Alabama customers say GM knew of problems with Cobalts built before April 2009.

GM didn’t address design flaws that could lead to accidents, said Sean Kane, president of Rehoboth, Mass.- based Safety Research & Strategies, which researches product hazards.

“GM may have to expand the recall,” he said. “Note that the driver’s knee can turn the key off too.”

Kane rated the difficulty of removing Cobalt keys, cited in the Alabama lawsuit, as less hazardous than a design flaw that could cause airbags and engine power to fail.

“We will not comment specifically on the suit or pending litigation,” GM said in an emailed statement. “We are recalling all of the vehicles that were manufactured with the specific ignition switch involved in this condition.”

Mark Reuss, GM vice president of global product development, said in a round-table interview with reporters last Tuesday at GM’s headquarters that the automaker has already identified all the models that used the flawed switches.

“Where the switch was used in production, we have done a very accurate and complete read across,” Reuss told reporters.

The defects have been linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths, according to the San Francisco lawsuit.