Hindsight is always 20-20 but some issues are hard to uncover at first. I suspect there were three issues at play here. First, was there a torque specification to move the ignition switch between positions? If not, there there was no test for incoming quality assurance to perform to ensure that the switches met torque specifications. Second, as a switch ages, the components may loosen up and the necessary torque may be reduced. If the torque parameter is not part of the specification, then there would be no reason for repetitive testing of the switch to see if the necessary torque reduced through time. (The expected lifecycle testing to ensure the switch continued to work would not detect this issue). Finally, there has been a trend for keychains to get heavier and bulkier as remote controls, multiple car keys, house keys, work keys, and additional security features get added to the mix. A single key in the ignition could probably run forever without causing trouble. With the benefit of hindsight, it all makes sense. The necessary specifications and test protocols should be simple to implement.
@Bert, I spotted yesterday that my colleague Chuck Murray over at our sister publication Design News did a great job reporting on this -- so I decided to move this story over here at EE Times.
The blame, i think, actually goes to not just GM but also to NHTSA for the lack of their oversight.
But more relevant to our community and even more fascinating about this story is, as Chuck wrote in his story, this could be a good case study for how big manufacturers [like GM] handle the smallest details of design [or they didn't actually handle it very well].
I was hoping EE Times would publish an article about this, but quite honestly, I thought it would be Junko!
Could this be the same sort of phenomenon as the Toyota unintended acceleration story? The numbers are so small, compared with vehicles of that type on the road, that the issue only seems like glaring oversight when looking back? Doesn't look good for GM, that's for sure.
At least this time, it didn't take a high visibility lawsuit!