The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded an inquiry into a potential defect in Saturn Aura sedans that lets the vehicles’ automatic transmission remain in gear when the gear selector shows “Park.”

The agency last May launched an investigation of 44,000 Auras from the 2007 model year. On November 14, it expanded it to 2008-year models and the 2008 Aura hybrid, bringing the total number of cars affected to almost 89,000.

The NHTSA has received seven reports of incidents related to this issue. In one, a car that had been apparently put into Park moved and struck a building. In another, a car seemingly in Park rolled backward and hit the driver.

General Motors, Saturn’s owner, said the problem is caused by the cover of the shift cable weakening and tearing, allowing moisture to enter and disrupt the shifter’s proper functioning. The company is offering an extended warranty for the 2007, and some 2008, Saturn Auras.
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