April 3, 2002

General Motors is recalling about 1.9 million 1995-97 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire and 1996-97 Buick Skylark, Pontiac Grand Am, and Oldsmobile Achieva models. the company said a faulty ignition switch could cause a fire in the steering column.

GM said the problem seldom occurs while the cars are being driven. Rather, it tends to occur shortly after an unsuccessful attempt to start the car. Although no accidents or fires have been reported, there have been a few cases of smoke inhalation.

"The ignition switch may deteriorate if the engine fails to crank and the driver holds the key in the 'start' position for an extended period," said Lori Queen, GM small car vehicle line executive.

If the switch is damaged, the plastic internal components may heat up, melt, and eventually ignite. This could occur even with the engine off and the key removed, she said.

GM said dealers will repair the vehicles to prevent high electrical currents from flowing through the ignition switch. Until cars are repaired, Queen said motorists should no hold the key in the start position for an extended period of time.

The company began mailing notification letters to owners On March 27. The repairs will be performed at no cost to customers.