Nearly four months after first revealing it neglected safety problems in millions of older models, General Motors announced today another massive batch of recalls — five in total, covering eight models built over a decade and affecting 2.7 million vehicles. While GM says none of the safety issues it's fixing today have lead to deaths, some had been the source of injuries and hundreds of complaints — and in one case, GM had issued a partial fix and recall already, raising new questions about why it waited several years to repair all cars affected.
So far this year, GM has recalled more than 11 million cars and trucks in 24 different campaigns, part of a shakeout stemming from the ignition defects linked to at least 13 deaths and years of foot-dragging by the company. The automaker said today's recalls would add $200 million to the $1.3 billion it spent fixing old vehicles in the first quarter.
The bulk of those affected by today's recalls: 2.4 million 2004-2012 Chevrolet Malibus, 2004-2007 Chevrolet Malibu Maxxes, 2005-2010 Pontiac G6s and 2007-2010 Saturn Auras. GM says a bad control module could cause the tail lights to either fail to turn on when the brakes are applied or turn on by themselves; the same issue could also cause problems with "cruise control, traction control, electronic stability control and panic braking assist."
It's a problem that had generated more than 1,000 complaints from owners and reports of three injuries from crashes. GM had even recalled about 8,000 Pontiac G5s for the problem back in January 2009 — and yet, also told dealers how to fix the problem in all other affected models without a recall. After receiving more than 300 complaints on its own in the years since, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a new investigation into the problem last year.
The other recalls GM announced today include:
— 111,889 2005-2007 model year Chevrolet Corvettes, whose low-beam headlamps can intermittently fail due to a bent wire. Newer models that suffer from the same problem will get covered by an extended warranty. This too was the focus of a NHTSA defect probe.
— 140,067 Chevrolet Malibus from the 2014 model year with 2.5L engines and stop/start technology, where the brake can suddenly require far more force to engage. Four complaints, no injuries.
— 19,225 Cadillac CTS cars from the 2013-2014 model year, where the windshield wiper motor could break if a car's jump-started while the wipers are blocked by ice or snow.
— And 477 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light duty pickups and 2015 model year Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs, whose owners are being told to not only stop driving their trucks but have them towed via flat-bed to dealers. GM says it discovered a manufacturing defect at the factory that could cause the front tie rod and steering gear to fail, leading to a crash.
GM's new safety and recall chief, Jeff Boyer, has said the automaker would move faster to spot and repair problems under his tenure; a similar shake-out of long-simmering issues happened at Toyota following its floor-mat debacle a few years back, when it also called back millions of vehicles. And there are still other lingering problems — like the rusted brake lines in millions of GM pickups — where the automaker remains under investigation by federal safety officials. NHTSA still has four other defect probes open involving GM vehicles. Today's announcements may be the biggest for now, but they likely won't be the last.