NHTSA — Vehicle Speed Control Problems

2003 Saturn Ion (Page 2 of 2)

CarComplaints.com Seal Of This Might Hurt

CarComplaints.com Notes: The Saturn Ion was a compact bundle of hurt wrapped up in a cheap, plastic shell. With so many defective components and a safety rating that a bicycle would be ashamed of, it’s a blessing this car only lasted five model years.

The 2003 (and 2004) Ion was cursed with GM’s flawed attempt at a continuously variable transmission, known as the VTi. It had such a high failure rate that a class-action lawsuit was filed against GM, eventually prompting a settlement and a warranty extension. GM discontinued the VTi for the 2005 model year – surprise, surprise.

The 2003 Ion was also part of one of the largest and most controversial recalls of all-time. A defective ignition switch in millions of GM vehicles could accidentally turn the car off and disable important safety components like the power steering and airbags. The problem resulted in at least 13 deaths, but what made it worse was that GM knew about the issue for 10 years before doing anything about it.

So was the transmission warranty extended? Yeah. Was the ignition switch recalled? Eventually. Is this car safe to drive? Not really. Honestly, you’re better off looking elsewhere.


really awful
Crashes / Fires:
4 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
4 / 0
Average Mileage:
73,047 miles

About These NHTSA Complaints:

This data is from the NHTSA — the US gov't agency tasked with vehicle safety. Complaints are spread across multiple & redundant categories, & are not organized by problem.

So how do you find out what problems are occurring? For this NHTSA complaint data, the only way is to read through the comments below. Any duplicates or errors? It's not us.

2003 Saturn Ion engine problems

engine problem

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2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments (Page 2 of 2)

« Read the previous 20 complaints

problem #11

Mar 122009


  • miles


There are no events leading up to the failure. From everything I've read from other Saturn Ion owners this is a frequent and seemingly random problem. At any given time if it is cold outside the car won't start. Everything lights up, the engine turns over and catches, only to stall. Upon repeated attempts to start the car there will be no response whatsoever. The engine does not turn over. After waiting several minutes it will eventually start. This problem has occurred 4 times in the last month; twice causing me to be late for particularly important engagements. Upon reporting the problem to the Saturn dealership where I bought the car I was told that they have many complaints of the same problem, but that their staff haven't been able to resolve it. This has been their general attitude towards several issues I've had with my car. I took it to another garage and they can't find a thing wrong with it. Saturn seems to be turning a blind eye to a problem that is clearly the result of a poor design somewhere on their part. I have also had to replace control arm bushings when I was at about 80 000 km, and now need to replace struts. I am hesitant to do this though, as the general consensus among Saturn Ion owners is that bushings and struts are in perpetual need of replacement on these cars. After replacing the parts most people find that they have to make the same repairs again within 2 years. Further problems I have with my car are: Trunk will not open with key, replaced wires on both front turn signals and one headlight, key would not release from ignition, erratic transmission behavior (I was told that this is a common problem and that I just have to deal with it), seat belt guides broken (front, both sides), rear seat belt "female" component falls into crevice in seat, paint peeling from front bumper without being chipped prior, and a faulty cruise control switch. Every single one of these problems has turned up again and again in the Ion owners community.

- Coboconk, 00, USA

problem #10

Jun 102006


  • 33,000 miles
The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. When the heater is operated, the vehicle would idle extremely high. The failure has been occurring since fall of 2006. The contact stopped at a traffic light and the failure recurred. Suddenly, the vehicle accelerated without the accelerator pedal being depressed. The dealer was unable to duplicate the failures. The manufacturer stated that if the dealer could not duplicate the failures, then nothing could be done. The VIN was unknown. The failure mileage was 33,000 and current mileage was 74,300.

- Ft Wayne, IN, USA

problem #9

Jan 042006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
I have had my car in for the same repair 4 times since I got it in May 2003. What happens is the car will rev and/or accelerate (sometimes in park, sometimes in drive) on its own. It has accelerated, almost causing me to go through an intersection with my toddler in the car. It occurs without warning, & Saturn has temporarily fixed the problem under warranty each time. The throttle is replaced each time, but there is a recurrent pattern every 4-6 months, as shown on record with Saturn. I was told by Saturn that they investigated the issue, only finding it in one other car. Being as that problem was solved with the other car, & being as my car was just fixed again, they are unwilling to deal with this issue.

- Staten Island, NY, USA

problem #8

Oct 112004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 25,000 miles


Vehicle experienced sudden acceleration while in traffic, causing consumer's vehicle to crash into another vehicle. Driver sustained injuries. Taken for repair to the dealer for the second time, but the cause was undetermined even after the computer had been reset. Consumer stated the only way to stop the vehicle was when it hit the other car in front. Put foot on brake to stop the car and it surge forward.

- Sterling Heights, MI, USA

problem #7

Feb 142005


  • Automatic transmission
  • 28,000 miles
Vehicle is experiencing a problem with sudden acceleration. Owner was driving and had foot on brake at a four way stop. The vehicle began to accelerate up to 3,000 RPM and surged through the intersection. Provide further details.

- Columbia, PA, USA

problem #6

Nov 022004

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • miles
While driving, the consumer noticed the vehicle would accelerate from 5 to 20 miles on its own. The consumer applied the brakes, but the pedal went to the floor and the vehicle continued to speed. The consumer was able to maintain control of the vehicle. The driver has electrical windows and locks failed. The window would roll up and down intermittently. The door latch would do the same. The master cylinder was replaced as well. These problem continue to occurred and has not been resolved. The driver has informed the mechanic about the problem. Please fill in additional information.

- Phoenix, AZ, USA

problem #5

Oct 202004


  • Automatic transmission
  • miles


The vehicle stalled while driving on the freeway and going down a hill. The vehicle accelerated up to 5,000 RPM's and would not go down until the vehicle was on a flat surface. Provide further details.

- Castaic, CA, USA

problem #4

Mar 072004


  • 49,000 miles
Throttle froze during the winter months. Consumer contacted manufacturer, and was told that because warranty expired they will not make any repairs without consumer first paying for it. Also, headlight covers were covered with a film that made visibility difficult. On 3-7-04 the vehicle was involved in an accident. When the consumer took her foot off the gas but the vehicle did not slow down. The vehicle began to slide then rolled over. The driver sustain double whiplash and left shoulder muscle spasms. The vehicle was not totaled. On 6-16-04 the front passenger side wheel bearing was replaced.

- Mio, MI, USA

problem #3

Sep 232003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 90 miles
While driving at any speed and when first accelerating vehicle would bog down and stall. Vehicle had been to the dealer on four occasions, but dealer was unable to duplicate or resolve the problem.

- Camano Island, WA, USA

problem #2

Dec 122003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 10,600 miles
The two Saturn 2003 Ions I have driven (including my current vehicle) have a transmission problem where, when engaging in third gear, the transmission will "freewheel" for several seconds before engaging with a lurch. The problem can be created by accelerating around a corner while the transmission is shifting from second to third. The cars were manufactured in March/April, 2003.

- Stevenson Ranch, CA, USA

problem #1

Oct 172003

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 5,100 miles
I bought a Saturn Ion in early August of 2003. I have had 5 separate occasions where the vehicle has stalled out on me and had no control of the car what so ever! the latest time was at the interstate at 65 miles per hour with an eight wheeler truck right behind me. Had I not thought quick and put the car in neutral and restarted the car or else I would have been hit it the rear by a several ton vehicle. I could have been killed! the entire power to the car dies !! the steering column locks up and you the entire car "shuts down" and you are stuck in front of another car w/ only the prayer of restarting your Saturn Ion so that you are not killed! the first person I spoke with in the service department told me that he had heard of this in a "couple of other cars" the service manager claimed he had no knowledge of what the "first service technician was talking about." I am outraged that Saturn said they would try to get the car to "duplicate" this problem for them. I have told them that it is not something that happens everyday or even every week. Their response was "we can't fix what we do not know is broken" I am going to ask that the car be returned to gmac which is the lean holder! I do not think this is a safe vehicle for myself and my small children. "I strongly discourage others from purchasing the Saturn Ion !!!! I feel as if I have been riding in a death trap!! outraged unfortunate Saturn owner of winston-salem.

- Kernersville, NC, USA

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