March 28, 2014 at 11:55 pm

GM adding 971,000 vehicles to ignition switch recall; separate callback targets 500,000 pickups, SUVS

The 2010 Chevy Cobalt was among the cars added to GM's recall. (GM)

Washington— General Motors Co. said Friday it is recalling an additional 1.7 million vehicles in four new recalls — including 971,000 2008-11 cars worldwide that may have received defective ignition switches as replacements.

The new recalls — including one of nearly 500,000 newer pickup trucks and SUVs linked to a fire in California caught on tape this week — come days before GM CEO Mary Barra will testify in congressional hearings that start Tuesday.

GM has now recalled 2.59 million vehicles linked to the ignition switches since early February in what has become the biggest crisis to engulf GM in years.

“It is critical that all potential problems are identified and fixed as soon as possible so we can keep Americans safe,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee that will question Barra. “When it comes to autos, product safety is a life or death issue and there is no margin for error.”

Also, the Detroit automaker said late Friday it has confirmed a 13th death linked to the ignition switch problem: the June 2013 crash of a 2007 Cobalt in Quebec, Canada, in which the vehicle went off the road and hit several trees. Transport Canada, the auto safety agency, said this month it is investigating the crash.

The new ignition switch recall includes the 2008-10 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2008-11 Chevrolet HHR, 2008-10 Pontiac Solstice, 2008-10 Pontiac G5 and 2008-10 Saturn Sky vehicles. Previously only cars through model-year 2007 had been recalled. GM said it will replace ignition switches in all of the newer cars because bad parts may have been used to repair them. The recall includes 824,000 cars in the United States.

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the automaker knows of no additional deaths or injuries or crashes in the newly recalled cars that are linked to the defect — and only up to 5,000 are believed to have potentially bad parts.

“We are taking no chances with safety,” Barra said in a 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.”

GM said it would recall 490,000 new pickups and SUVs — the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500, 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and GMC Yukon and XL SUVs with a six-speed transmission in the United States. GM didn’t have worldwide figures late Friday.

The recall came just five days after a report of a dramatic fire in Anaheim, Calif. in a 2015 GMC Yukon during a test-drive caught on video. GM sent engineers to inspect the truck Tuesday, had figured out the problem Wednesday and got the OK to call back the vehicles — a very fast turnaround for a safety issue. GM said it knew of two previous fires in trucks at dealerships last year. Dealers will inspect the fittings for leaks.

GM is also recalling 190,000 Chevrolet Cruze cars with 1.4L turbo gas engines in North America to replace a right front axle shaft that can crack and separate during normal driving, including 172,000 in the United States. GM is aware of several dozen warranty claims for the issue but no reports of crashes or injuries.

GM will also re-recall 2,500 manual transmission Cruze cars that were recalled last September for the same problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM have been in talks about the issue, with federal regulators concerned that one of the faulty parts could lead to a crash.

“After NHTSA’s continued engagement, GM is expanding its ignition switch recall to include additional vehicles and aftermarket parts. Consumers impacted by GM’s safety recall should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification,” NHTSA said.

The automaker said the recall is in order to ensure that 95,000 replacement ignition switches are replaced. GM said about 90,000 switches were used to repair older vehicles before they were recalled in February.

Cain said the 5,000 remaining parts could still be sitting on shelves at dealerships or garages, or may have been installed in the newer cars that previously had not been recalled.

GM will replace the ignition switches in all 971,000 new recalled cars — even though fewer than 5,000 have the bad switches — in part because it is difficult to determine which were replaced. It didn’t offer a cost estimate of the expanded recall, but previously said it was taking a $300 million charge to account for recent recalls.

GM said owners who are suspected to have had an ignition switch installed in their cars will receive a letter the week of April 21.

Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said, “By replacing switches that have potentially been replaced, it demonstrates that this is not business as usual for GM.”

The automaker recalled 780,000 older Cobalt cars in early February and then doubled the size of the recall in late February by adding the Saturn Ion and other cars through model-year 2007.

GM spokesman Greg Martin told The Detroit News earlier this week that it was looking into ignition switch service parts used for repairs. Once the part’s design was changed — believed to be around 2007 — the part number wasn’t changed, which industry insiders have called a “sin.”

GM’s decision to dramatically expand its recall comes as the automaker has pledged to speed up review of safety issues. Last week, it issued three separate recalls for 1.7 million vehicles for problems unrelated to ignition switch problems, and on Friday recalled about 700 new Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrids.

The fourth recall announced Friday was for about 650 of its new 2014 Cadillac plug-in hybrid ELR cars to fix an electronic glitch.

GM said because of a calibration error, electronic stability control — the anti-rollover technology — may not provide an alert to a driver for certain faults.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. is also recalling its new 2014 Cadillac plug-in hybrid ELR to fix an electronic glitch.

The Detroit automaker said it is recalling 663 ELR cars built without adaptive cruise control. Due to a calibration error, electronic stability control — the anti-rollover technology — may not provide an alert to a driver if certain faults occur.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com