General Motors announced late Friday it would recall another 824,000 vehicles in the U.S. and 147,000 worldwide because they may contain faulty ignition switches that could inadvertently turn off the engine and safety systems while the cars are in motion. This is the third wave of the recall, originally announced last month, and Friday's news brings the total tally to nearly 2.6 million cars. GM has acknowledged has caused at least 12 deaths and 31 car accidents.
GM said it's expanding the recall because the company sold approximately 95,000 of the faulty ignition switches to aftermarket wholesalers and dealers, and doesn't think it's practical to try and track them all down.
"We are taking no chances with safety," General Motors CEO Mary Barra said in a written statement. "Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million vehicles and distributed to thousands of retailers isn't practical. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling the rest of the model years." Previously, the company had said the ignition switches needed to be replaced in certain model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky. Friday's update expanded the recall to include all model years of those models. Replacement parts are scheduled to begin arriving at dealerships across the country on April 7, and earlier this week GM said it expected to have enough parts to fix all affected cars by October.
In the meantime, the company says customers driving affected cars should remove all keys from their keychains – the added weight of the keychains can aggravate the problem and help pull the ignition switch from the "run" to "accessory" position.
The announcement comes as several investigations into the company's conduct are scheduled to begin. Documents have shown that General Motors knew about the defect as early as 2001 – four years before the first affected models went on sale and 13 years before the company finally issued a recall in February.
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee On Oversight and Investigations is scheduled to hold hearings on what took the car company so long to act. Barra is slated to testify. The Senate Commerce Committee has also opened an investigation into the years-long delay, and the Department of Justice has indicated it may open a criminal investigation into the matter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal government's primary regulator of automotive safety, has opened a special investigation, in which GM is expected to submit detailed responses by Wednesday.
Several lawmakers also want to know why it took NHTSA so long to examine the problem, and why the agency's Early Warning Reporting system failed to alert investigators to a growing problem. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has asked an inspector general to conduct an audit of NHTSA's failure to detect the problem.
Amid the fallout from the ever-widening crisis, General Motors created a new "vice president of global safety" position ten days ago, and industry analysts see Friday's recall expansion as a sign the company has learned a valuable lesson.
"By replacing switches that have potentially been replaced, it demonstrates that this is not business as usual for GM," said Jack Nerad, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
GM Moves to Secure Recalled Ignition Switches
824,000 models sold in the U.S. from 2008-2011 will get new ignition switch
Parts return sought from aftermarket distributors
DETROIT – General Motors today said it will replace the ignition switch in all model years of its Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Pontiac G5, Solstice and Saturn Ion and Sky in the U.S. since faulty switches may have been used to repair the vehicles.
The parts are at the center of the company's recently announced ignition switch recall, which originally extended through the 2007 model year. About 95,000 faulty switches were sold to dealers and aftermarket wholesalers. Of those, about 90,000 were used to repair older vehicles that were repaired before they were recalled in February.
Because it is not feasible to track down all the parts, the company is taking the extraordinary step of recalling 824,000 more vehicles in the U.S. to ensure that every car has a current ignition switch. GM is unaware of any reports of fatalities with this group of vehicles where a frontal impact occurred, the front air bags did not deploy and the ignition is in the "accessory" or "off" position.
As with the earlier recalls, if the torque performance is not to GM specification, the ignition switch may unintentionally move from the "run" position to the "accessory" or "off" positions, leading to a loss of power. The risk may be increased if the key ring is carrying added weight or if the vehicle goes off road or experiences some jarring event. The timing of the key movement out of the "run" position relative to when the sensing algorithm of a crash may result in the air bags not deploying, increasing the potential for occupant injury in certain kinds of crashes.
Until the recall has been performed, customers are urged to remove all items, including the key fob, from their key rings, leaving only the vehicle key.
"We are taking no chances with safety," said GM CEO Mary Barra. "Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million vehicles and distributed to thousands of retailers isn't practical. Out of an abundance of caution, we are recalling the rest of the model years.
"We are going to provide our customers with the peace of mind they deserve and expect by getting the new switches into all the vehicles," Barra said.
GM records indicate the service parts may have been used for ignition repairs in:
2008-2010 Chevrolet Cobalts
2008-2011 Chevrolet HHRs
2008-2010 Pontiac Solstice
2008-2010 Pontiac G5 and
2008-2010 Saturn Sky
Owners who may have had a suspect part installed will receive a letter the week of April 21. GM dealers will replace their ignition switch free of charge as parts become available. Customers who paid to have their ignition switches replaced will be eligible for reimbursement.
Dealers, distributors and other parts customers will be told about the recall beginning March 31.
Information on the ignition switch recall is available www.gmignitionupdate.com.
About General Motors Co.
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.
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