General Motors Corp. (Detroit) is recalling 1.9 million passenger vehicles because of a potential problem in the steering column. The recall pertains to 1995 to 1997 Chevrolet Cavilers and Pontiac Sunfires, 1996 to 1997 Buick Skylarks, Pontiac Grand Ams and Oldsmobile Achievas. The vehicles will be serviced to prevent high electrical current flow through the ignition switch that may cause a fire in the steering column.

"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. High current flows through the ignition switch and sometimes produces enough heat to melt internal switch parts," says 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.

No reports of fire from this condition have been reported while the cars were being driven: most of the incidents occurred within minutes of an unsuccessful start. There have been claims of smoke inhalation and some instances have occurred after the car had been unattended for a longer time. GM has notified owners about the recall and precautions they should take until their vehicles are repaired.