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GM ignition issues trigger another massive recall

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By Mike Colias, Crain News Service

DETROIT (July 1, 2014) — General Motors Co. is recalling another 8.4 million cars globally from the 1997 to 2014 model years, including some that are linked to seven crashes, eight injuries and three deaths.

Most of the cars—7.6 million—are across seven full-sized models being recalled for inadvertent ignition key rotation, GM said June 30. The fatalities, which occurred in two crashes, involved 2003 and 2004 Impalas.

The older-model cars range from the 1997 to 2008 model years, including the 1997-2005 Chevy Malibu; 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue; 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero; 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am; 2004-08 Pontiac Grand Prix; and 2000-05 Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo. The 7.6 million vehicles covered in this campaign make it the biggest single recall this year for GM.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the problem with the ignition key on those models is different from the defective ignition switch in 2.6 million recalled small cars from the mid-2000s.

The switches in the small cars have insufficient torque and are prone to slipping out of “run,” shutting off power steering, power brakes and airbags. GM has linked 54 crashes and 13 deaths to the defect. GM dealers are in the process of replacing those ignition switches.

On the cars recalled June 30, the key-rotation problem “is one of weight on the key. It’s not system performance,” Mr. Cain said. The torque in the switches “may be slightly out of spec,” Cain said, “but the performance of the system as a whole meets the requirement.”

Rather than replace the ignition switches, GM dealers will give owners small plastic inserts that will change the key ring opening to a hole, from a slotted design.

GM said there is “no conclusive evidence” that the defect that causes inadvertent key rotation caused the fatal accidents, both of which involved high speeds.

One incident involved a high-speed crash into a tree, followed by a fire, Mr. Cain said. The other involved “multiple impacts on a freeway ramp,” in which an occupant was unbelted, he said.

“In both accidents, the airbags did not deploy,” he said. “But there wasn’t conclusive evidence that the switch was a factor.”

The sedan recalls were among six callback campaigns announced today, including a separate ignition key-related recall of 616,179 Cadillac SRX crossovers from 2004-06 and 2003-14 Cadillac CTS cars globally.

GM boosted its estimated charge for second-quarter recall-related repairs to $1.2 billion, up $500 million from a previous estimate. It took a $1.3 billion charge in the first quarter, which included the recall of 2.6 million small cars for the defective ignition switch.

Trading of GM shares on the New York Stock Exchange was halted briefly yesterday afternoon around the same time the company announced the latest recall campaigns.

This latest round of recalls brings GM’s total for the year to 54 recalls covering about 28.9 million vehicles globally. Some of those are counted more than once because they’re being called back for multiple recall-related fixes.

At the midyear mark, GM has recalled nearly as many cars as the entire industry did in all of 2004, the previous record year, when auto makers recalled 30.8 million vehicles.

“We undertook what I believe is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of our company because nothing is more important than the safety of our customers,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

“Our customers deserve more than we delivered in these vehicles. That has hardened my resolve to set a new industry standard for vehicle safety, quality and excellence.”

This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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