Big car maker reeling as serious faults already hit 13.6 million

Another day, another recall from General Motors. At least that's the way it seems, as the vehicle maker reviews safety issues across its line-up of cars and trucks in the wake of a mishandled recall of millions of older small cars.

The number of recalls issued this year by the top US carmaker rose this week to 29 as GM announced four separate actions affecting 2.4 million cars and trucks. While no fatalities were involved in the latest recalls, the problems were serious enough that GM has temporarily halted sales of the vehicles.

GM has recalled 13.6 million vehicles in the US since early February. That is more than the total number of cars it sold in the country in the past five years, and already surpasses GM's previous US recall record of 10.75 million vehicles, set in 2004. By comparison, rival Ford has recalled 1.2 million vehicles in the US this year, while Toyota has recalled 2.9 million.

The parade of bad news is part of the fallout from GM's recall of 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for defective ignition switches -- and a consequence of government regulation. GM says it is redoubling efforts to resolve outstanding safety issues. It is hiring 35 new safety investigators and is issuing recalls one by one, as soon as a decision is made. GM cannot wait and announce a group of recalls once a month, it is required by federal law to report defects to the Government within five days of discovering them.


A failure to follow that law landed GM in hot water with the Government. The company agreed last week to pay a US$35 million ($41 million) federal fine for concealing a deadly defect in the ignition switches for more than a decade. GM says at least 13 people have died in crashes linked to the problem, although trial lawyers suing the company say the death toll is at least 53. Congress and the Justice Department are investigating.

More recalls are likely. GM spokesman Alan Adler said the company was making progress on reviewing older investigations "but work is continuing". The recalls have not yet affected GM's US sales, which were up 7 per cent in April.

But Akshay Anand, an industry analyst, said this week's order to dealers to stop selling the 2015 Cadillac Escalade and 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia until they are repaired could give more buyers pause. The initial recalls covered older models such as the discontinued Cobalt, now they are affecting newer models.

Detroit-based GM said it would take a US$400 million charge for repairs on all vehicles recalled so far this quarter. That includes the US$200 million charge the company announced last week when it issued five recalls covering 2.7 million vehicles. That is on top of a US$1.3 billion charge the vehicle maker took for recalls in the first quarter.

Holden New Zealand has been affected by the latest recalls.

The recalls announced this week are:

*1.3 million Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers from the 2009-14 model years and Saturn Outlook crossovers from 2009-10. GM says the front safety lap belt cables can wear down and separate over time. GM has told dealers they cannot sell new or used models of the vehicles until repairs are made.

*1.1 million Chevrolet Malibu sedans from the 2004-08 model years and Pontiac G6 sedans from 2005-08 because a shift cable could wear out over time. If that happens, the driver may not be able to select a different gear, remove the key from the ignition or place the transmission in park. GM knows of 18 crashes and one injury from the defect.

*1402 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESVs from the 2015 model year because a faulty weld could result in partial deployment of the front passenger airbag in a crash. GM has stopped the sale of the models and alerted 224 current owners not to let occupants sit in the front passenger seat until the vehicle has been repaired. GM knows of no injuries related to the defect.

*58 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickups from the 2015 model year because retention clips attaching the generator fuse block to the vehicle body can become loose and lead to a potential fire. No crashes or injuries are related to the defect.