• May 21, 2014

So far in 2014, GM has issued 29 recalls covering approximately 15 million vehicles.

In its latest wave of recall announcements this week, General Motors said it would repair nearly a quarter-million vehicles for safety defects that included worn seat belts, worn shift cables, malfunctioning airbags and hazardous fuse boxes.

That was Tuesday.

Only five days earlier, the company announced five separate recalls that covered problems ranging from malfunctioning headlights to malfunctioning taillights, brake problems and, in one case, a safety defect with its 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, Tahoe and GMC Sierra is so severe that owners have been advised to have their trucks flat-bedded to dealerships for repairs.

And there's a new recall today, with GM calling in 218,000 examples of its 2004-2008 Chevy Aveo subcompact over daytime running lamp-related fires.

This may be the new normal – and not just for GM. Since an investigation revealed GM had known about an ignition-switch defect that killed 13 people for more than a decade, the company has gone on a spring cleaning of sorts, announcing frequent recalls for a wide range of safety defects. So far in 2014, General Motors has issued 29 recalls that require repairs of approximately 15 million vehicles.

GM is not alone. So far this year, automotive manufacturers have issued recalls for at least 22.4 million vehicles. That's the largest total through five months of the year since 2004, according to Bloomberg.
2009 Pontiac G5 GT

The heightened spotlight on recalls could be a mixed blessing for consumers.

The sheer quantity "highlights the disturbing number of potential hazards to drivers behind the wheel that have come to light this year," said Bob Darbelnet, the CEO of AAA, the nation's largest motoring organization. He called the 15-million number "distressing."

It's still a staggering number – almost reaching the 15.6 million cars sold by all manufacturers combined in the United States last year.

But the heightened spotlight on recalls could be a mixed blessing for consumers. They may be discouraged that the company has not recalled these vehicles sooner, but the defective cars are belatedly being fixed.

"On one hand, it's a positive," said Akshay Anand, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "It's a positive we've seen so many recalls under the new GM regime. It means their safety folks are being proactive and not taking chances, especially in light of all that has gone on. At the same time, every additional recall has the potential to tarnish GM's image."

That hasn't happened, at least not according to the automaker's sales totals.

General Motors sales rose 6.9 percent in April year over year, and so far in 2014, the company's sales have ticked upward by 0.1 percent. It perhaps helps the company that many of its cars most closely associated with the ignition-switch recall, the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and Pontiac G5 (shown above), are no longer in production.

"The data suggests in-market used-car shoppers don't seem to care about recalls."

Out of 35,000 emails submitted to dealers over the past two years through MojoMotors.com, a used-car shopping website, only two potential buyers have inquired about recalls. "The data suggests in-market used-car shoppers don't seem to care about recalls," says Paul Nadjarian, a former Ford executive who now serves as CEO at MojoMotors.com. "Recalls are actually good for the consumer, because they force the manufacturers to correct safety-related defected and work hard to avoid them in the future."

Case in point: since the ignition-switch fiasco surfaced, General Motors has reassigned 35 engineers to work as product investigators. The additional workers more than double its investigative staff, company spokesperson Alan Adler said. The company now has 60 employees working in product investigation.

They work for a team created under the company's new safety czar, Jeff Boyer, who was appointed in the wake of the ignition-switch problem. Half will work internally, ferreting out issues in new cars. Half will work externally, helping GM respond to issues raised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other outside organizations.

The reinforced safety staff will "help us fulfill our mission to look at issues that come up much more quickly," Adler said. "Recalls have a negative connotation, and that's unavoidable. But we're able to surface issues much more quickly now, and address them as needed."


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  • 37 Comments
      sumduud
      • 7 Months Ago
      Damage Control
      KO
      • 7 Months Ago
      I think the answer depends on this: Are the recalls a result of: - Some factor having to do with legal wrangling (avoiding regulator investigations, litigation management, etc.) i.e. external discovery/scrutiny - Some uncovering/willingness to act on prior known cost-cutting or intentional design/QA miss (internal discovery) prior to product sale - Some uncovering on some actual technical problem only discovered after the fact after product sale (whether internal or external) IMO of those the 2nd one would be the most inexcusable, and hope that's not the core reason.
      • 7 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      Avinash Machado
      • 7 Months Ago
      All car makers are imperfect.
      Tariff The Imports
      • 7 Months Ago
      If you're GM, it's the new norm.
      johnb
      • 7 Months Ago
      it's hard to run a car company when your whole day is spent dealing with the uaw and pension plans instead of building great cars.
        KaiserWilhelm
        • 7 Months Ago
        @johnb
        Right, because the engineers were the ones handling unions and pension plans...
          montoym
          • 7 Months Ago
          @KaiserWilhelm
          When there's no money to go towards the engineers because it's pent on deals that the Union fought so hard for and won't give up, then yeah, it affects all aspects of the company. That's a large reason why they built such admittedly crappy cars until recently. They were at a huge disadvantage to their competitors (especially foreign) because their overhead costs were enormous from decades of union demands and poor decision. There wasn't nearly as much money left over to provide the engineering needs that their product deserved.
        Daniel D
        • 7 Months Ago
        @johnb
        Because executives aren't in any way responsible for actually managing a company and engineers aren't responsible for product development.
      Jamie Houk
      • 7 Months Ago
      As for GM it really sounds to me like Mary Barra is cleaning house and getting all of the skeletons out of the closet so the company can move forward.
        Tariff The Imports
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Jamie Houk
        Wasnt GM supposed to turn a new leaf when they emerged from bankruptcy? What an appalling company.
          Jamie Houk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Tariff The Imports
          That is true but now there is someone in control that will actually take the hits and do what is needed to solve the problems. It would be interesting to know if this would be happening if the ignition recalled had not kicked it off.
      D210
      • 7 Months Ago
      It all the unions fault. If it were not for those socialist, communist, terrorist, un-American, Obama lovers then there wouldn't be as many recalls.
      Eta Carinae
      • 7 Months Ago
      The initial recalls, yes but now it seems like the rest are a hypersensitive reaction.....get everything clear now so we won't face backlash further down the line......or its just GM cleaning its closet...either way its a change in GM that everyone has been asking for....transparency only good will come from these recalls...
        Sanchez
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Eta Carinae
        Backlash avoidance does come to mind but so does backlog clearing.
      czarkzm
      • 7 Months Ago
      Sadly I'll blame this one on the lawyers. Ambulance chasers looking to set up class action lawsuits that see them as the majority winners, and a political system bent on making an 'example' out of someone have got the manufacturers running scared and recalling anything and everything that could be a potential problem. The sad reality is that the consumers will end up paying the price as the CFOs at all automakers are undoubtedly eyeing their recall reserves and planning on moving them upward. There are clearly some GM specific issues here, but a lot of it pertains to the current legal and political agendas of a limited few. Speaking to the numbers, looking at recalls over the past couple of years I believe there were 6.4m vehicles recalled in 2012, and 22m in 2013 (with Toyota in the lead for each of those years). Last year GM only recalled 785k vehicles....a very low number given their scale of production...they appear to be playing catch-up for recalls not released in the last couple of years. I'd love to see some analysis covering recalls over the last 10 years per 1,000 vehicles produced - that might be a more relevant number than simply looking at the total number over a snapshot time frame.
        Mondrell
        • 7 Months Ago
        @czarkzm
        "The sad reality is that the consumers will end up paying the price as the CFOs at all automakers are undoubtedly eyeing their recall reserves and planning on moving them upward." This is why I don't get class-action money grabs in just about any industry. Corporations are apt to handle paying these awards the same way they handle tax increases; benefit and job cuts for low to mid-tier employees while the consumer get reamed with price hikes and diminished quality. That's not to say it's an inherently evil practice; those are the only feasible recourses they have against multi-million dollar damage judgments and fines after all. But all it ever accomplishes in the long run is driving up the cost of doing business for everyone.
      dfkd
      • 7 Months Ago
      I expect a lot of engineers to be hired soon to... well actually engineer cars AHEAD of production rather than after.
      carnut0913
      • 7 Months Ago
      When you look at the cars being recalled- 2004-08 Aveos, G5s, Cobalts,... If someone has a 10yr old car and they take it into a GM dealer and see the new Sonic, or Cruze- they may decide to take the car for a test drive and see how much product development has occurred in 5-10 yrs, and spring for a new car- or think that X mftr is fixing issues on a car that is 7 yrs out of warranty. holy crap. Sure they have to but most customers wont look at it that way.
        Tariff The Imports
        • 7 Months Ago
        @carnut0913
        And that someone would be foolish to take a latest drive in another GM vehicle when there are much better offerings from competitors than either the Sonic or Cruze.
        Larry Litmanen
        • 7 Months Ago
        @carnut0913
        Well GM can offer a deal, if your car has been recalled and you trade it in for another GM car you get $1,000 discount.
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