NHTSA widens probe of Saturn Aura transmission

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The Saturn Aura sedan

An NHTSA probe into transmission issues with the Saturn Aura is expanding to other GM models. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating possible issues with automatic transmissions in the Saturn Aura since last year. Saturn is no more, but the agency is looking into similar defects in other GM models.

Faulty gear selector can cause accidents

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation has been going on since May of last year, according to the New York Times, into a possible defect of four-speed automatic transmission in 2007 Saturn Aura models. The NHTSA has widened the probe to include the 2008 Saturn Aura and other GM models.

The NHTSA has been receiving reports for several years that the transmission gear selector can fail to engage when placed in park, causing the car to roll forward or backward.

The problem, according to USA Today, is caused by the protective sleeve around shift linkage cables connected to the floor shifter. The jacket around the shift cables can weaken over time, allowing moisture and other elements to affect the shift cables. This can cause the cables to weaken and corrode, affecting shifting. The transmission may fail to shift out of gear or fail to shift altogether.

Other models affected

The Aura, according to Wikipedia, was based on the extended version of the GM Epsilon platform, developed by former GM subsidiary Opel. The platform was also used from 2002 to 2008 as the platform for models of the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6 in the United States and internationally in the Opel Signum, Vectra and the Fiat Croma.

In addition to the 2007 and 2008 Saturn Aura, the NHTSA is also, according to USA Today, looking at similar defects in the 2004 to 2008 Chevy Malibu and the 2005 to 2008 Pontiac G6.

Echoes previous recall

According to the Washington Post, there was a recall for 277,000 vehicles in March of 2009 because of similar transmission issues. The 2009 model year Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu were all part of the recall. Other models included the Chevrolet Traverse, Cobalt and HHR, along with the GMC Acadia, Pontiac G5 and the Buick Enclave.

However, not all Malibu and G6 models are affected by the transmission issue. According to the New York Times, the G6 and Malibu were both offered with four and six-speed automatic transmissions. The investigation concerns only the four-speed variant.

Few incidents reported

According to the Washington Post, there have been three incidents involving crashes related to a transmission shift failure reported to the NHTSA. Four incidents involving a crash were reported to General Motors.

Only one incident, one of the four reported to GM, involved an injury. The driver exited the vehicle, which rolled backward and struck him. In another incident, the vehicle rolled backward and struck a building, according to USA Today.


New York Times

USA Today

Washington Post

Wikipedia on GM Epsilon



  1. Benny on

    Have a 2007 Malibu maxx seems after a good drive the transmission will not go into park have to bang the heck out of the shifter for it to go into park. This does not happen all the time, very frustraiting as the machanic say’s he can’t fix what he can’t see

    • emilyconwell on


      That is by far more frustrating than it should be. Have you received any notices from the manufacturer stating there might be a defect with your model?