NHTSA — Power Train: Automatic Transmission: Lever And Linkage: Floor Shift Problems

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.


hardly worth mentioning
Crashes / Fires:
0 / 0
Injuries / Deaths:
0 / 0
Average Mileage:
57,735 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 transmission problems

transmission problem

Find something helpful? Spread the word.
Get notified about new defects, investigations, recalls & lawsuits for the 2003 Saturn Ion:

Unsubscribe any time. We don't sell/share your email.

2003 Saturn Ion Owner Comments

problem #2

Jul 012010

Ion 4-cyl

  • 70,000 miles


The contact owns a 2003 Saturn Ion. The contact stated that upon entering the vehicle and attempting to start the vehicle, it failed to start. The vehicle eventually started after several attempts. She took the vehicle to the dealer for diagnostic testing. The dealer informed her that she needed to replace the starter. The vehicle was repaired. She also stated that the key was getting stuck inside of the ignition which made it impossible to turn the vehicle off or remove the key from the cylinder. The vehicle was inspected for that failure and informed her that she needed to replace the ignition switch. Instead of replacing the ignition switch due to cost they opted to reprogram the key so that she could remove it no matter what gear the vehicle was in. The failure mileage was approximately 70,000. Updated 2/23/11 according to the service invoice, the vehicle needed a new shifter which was causing the key to become stuck in the ignition. Updated 06/20/11

- Simpsonville, SC, USA

problem #1

Mar 032006

Ion 4-cyl

  • Automatic transmission
  • 45,470 miles
This has happened twice in exactly thirteen months the first time was on February 3, 2005. I adjusted my power drivers side mirror while driving home at night on highway 61 and heard a pop and all my lights including headlights and dash lights went out. My four way safety flashers also would not work I was driving in complete darkness while traveling approximately 67 mph this incident occurred almost identically last year while driving in town approximately 25 mph adjusted mirror heard a pop and all lights went out. Luckily in both incidents no one hit me from behind due to the fact they couldn't see me until it was too late. No one was killed or injured but that was just pure luck.. last years incident I had my car towed to Saturn and they determined that the BCM fuse was bad they replaced fuse. Obviously they did not get to the root of the problem you would think you can adjust your power mirror without having all lights shut off including dash lights.. once you put the vehicle into park you cannot turn it off completely the key will only go as far as the accessory position and cannot be removed. The engine will run you just can't move the vehicle. Somehow I do not think they corrected the problem entirely when they replaced the fuse. It seems to me you should not blow a BCM fuse every thirteen months exactly to the day. It is such a potentially fatal problem the consequences are terrifying. My 2003 Saturn Ion-3 can not be the only car out there with this happening especially twice in thirteen months.

- Dewitt, IA, USA

Not what you are looking for?