General Motors Co. (GM:US) is expanding the recall of small-car ignition switches by 971,000 vehicles worldwide to cover 2008 to 2011 vehicles that were built with safe parts yet may have received faulty replacements. It also increased the death toll linked to the switches.
The recall brings the total to 2.59 million small cars and now includes 2008 to 2010 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s, Pontiac Solstices, Saturn Ions and Saturn Skys and 2008 to 2011 Chevrolet HHRs, Jim Cain, a GM spokesman in Detroit, said yesterday in a telephone interview. The expanded recall comes on top of 1.62 million cars recalled last month for faulty ignition switches linked to the deaths of 12 people.
Alan Adler, a GM spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mail that the number of deaths linked to the switches rose to 13 people from 12 with a 2013 fatality in a 2007 Cobalt in Quebec. No deaths or injuries have been associated with the newly recalled models, Cain said.
While the second expansion of the recall is unlikely to replace many defective parts, it helps demonstrate GM’s more-responsive approach to any customer risk, said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra is slated to testify at U.S. House and Senate hearings April 1 and 2 about why it took so long to fix the cars.
“The first impression is: Geez, these guys have recalls going on like crazy,” Brauer said yesterday in a telephone interview. “But their approach to the whole thing is that we’re being ultra-cautious because that’s what the new GM is when it comes to safety issues and vehicle defects.”
About 95,000 faulty switches were sold to dealers and after-market wholesalers with about 90,000 used for repairs, said Cain, the spokesman.
“Most of those went into vehicles that have already been recalled,” he said. “We’re not going to take any chances, we’re going to bring them all back.”
In the U.S. alone, the recall is being expanded by 824,000 cars to a total of 2.2 million, GM said in a statement yesterday. GM’s European unit expanded its recall of the Opel GT by 5,150 vehicles after recalling the sports car from the 2008 to 2010 model years.
“We know that these vehicles were built with good switches but what we don’t know: Were any of them repaired with a bad switch,” Cain said. “So out of an abundance of caution we’re just going to replace the switches in all of them.”
‘Taking No Chances’
In addition to the congressional hearings, GM is conducting an internal review and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also is investigating. The U.S. Justice Department has begun a probe, a person familiar with that action said earlier.
“We are taking no chances with safety,” Barra said in yesterday’s statement. “Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million vehicles and distributed to thousands of retailers isn’t practical.”
Barra has said she was told about an analysis of stalling cars in December, weeks before she became CEO Jan. 15, and was informed on Jan. 31 of the decision by a GM committee to recall.
It “took too long” for the company to respond, Barra told reporters on March 18.
“I want to start by saying again how sorry I am personally and how sorry General Motors is for what has happened,” Barra, 52, said at the company’s Detroit headquarters. “Clearly lives have been lost and families are affected, and that is very serious. We want to just extend our deep condolences for everyone’s losses.”
This is the second time GM has expanded the recall regarding the ignition switch. GM announced it was replacing the switches last month, years after customers started complaining their cars could go dead if they were bumped or if their keys were on heavy key chains. The company issued the first recall on Feb. 13, then more than doubled the number of models with a second recall less than two weeks later.
The latest recall comes after “continued engagement” with regulators, NHTSA said in an e-mailed statement.
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