Slowly but surely, General Motors is learning quite a few lessons from its recent ignition-switch recall fiasco. A recent timeline submitted by the company to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that it took six years to issue a recent recall on several crossovers.
In March, GM recalled 1.18 million CUVs because the side impact airbag system could fail, including some 2008-2013 Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia models, as well as 2009-2013 Chevrolet Traverse (pictured above) and 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook models. The announcement was timed with GM CEO Mary Barra's video apology about the ignition switch recall.
The NHTSA document suggests that GM initially hoped to avoid a recall on the CUVs. On March 13, the company first wanted to cover the vehicles under a customer satisfaction campaign. These aren't monitored by the government, according to Automotive News. The next day, it updated the repair to a full recall after a call with the government regulator.
The recall wasn't the first indication of the airbag problem either. According to GM's timeline, in June 2008, it noticed "a significant increase in warranty claims for an illuminated airbag service light." An investigation showed the side airbag wires' connectors could wear and corrode, which would increase resistance in the wires. The additional resistance would first illuminate the "Service Air Bag" warning light, but at a high enough level, the airbags may no longer deploy. The automaker issued the first service bulletin about the possibility of failing side impact airbags on the CUVs in November 2008. More airbag-related bulletins were issued for subsequent model years of the crossovers.
According to Automotive News, there were no reported crashes or injuries related to the faulty side impact airbags in the affected models, and GM believed the service bulletins covered the problem. However, the company appeared reluctant to issue a recall for a problem that it knew about for years. With the automaker's vehicle safety under such scrutiny, it's a poor message to send. The entire nine-page NHTSA timeline is publicly available and can be downloaded as a PDF, here.