The government on Thursday announced a formal investigation covering 1.9 million General Motors cars, after complaints that a defect in the cruise control system can cause a driver to lose control of the car.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the investigation was opened to prepare for a possible court-ordered recall of several models of 1984 to 1988 Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Pontiacs that are equipped with cruise control.
Cruise control enables a driver to set a constant highway speed without tending to the accelerator.
The safety agency said it has received 144 complaints, involving 18 accidents and seven injuries, in which a small plastic ring slipped out of a part of the vehicle’s cruise control system at highway speed without warning, causing the throttle to be held partially open.
“Under certain conditions, the driver may be startled and lose control of the car, and the brakes will be less effective,” the agency said in announcing the investigation.
General Motors has refused government requests for a voluntary recall, the agency said. A formal inquiry is the last step before a possible court case to obtain a recall order.
A company spokesman, David Hudgens, said GM does not believe the cruise control allegations warrant a safety recall.
Models included are Oldsmobile Delta 88s, 98s, Cutlass Supremes and Toronados; Buick LeSabres, Rivieras and Regals; Pontiac Parisiennes and Grand Prix; Chevrolet Caprices and Monte Carlos, and Cadillac Broughams, Eldorados and Sevilles.