June 16, 2014 at 1:00 am

GM's recall toll keeps soaring with 3.4M-vehicle ignition-related callback

In its latest recall, GM says that the ignition switch may move out of the run position if the key carries extra weight and has a jarring event. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

Two days before its CEO is due for another grilling by Congress, General Motors Co. said Monday it is recalling nearly 3.4 million cars for ignition switch problems linked to eight crashes and six injuries.

Monday’s recall is in addition to more than 3 million GM cars already called back for ignition problems this year. And it wasn’t the only recall announced by GM Monday: five other recall campaigns, citing a variety of problems, totaled an additional 165,770.

The latest ignition recall is similar to GM’s delayed recall of 2.6 million Cobalts, Ions and other cars linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes due to faulty ignition switches — comes as the automaker’s woes continue to mount. And on Friday, GM recalled more than 510,000 current-generation Chevrolet Camaros for ignition switch problems linked to three crashes in which air bags failed to deploy.

GM CEO Mary Barra returns to Capitol Hill Wednesday to face tough questioning about an internal GM report that said a pattern of “incompetence and neglect” led to the automaker’s failure to recall millions of vehicles. Barra fired 15 employees and disciplined five. The automaker has restructured its safety unit, added dozens of engineers and revised how it approaches safety problems.

GM said Monday it upped cost of the recalls during its second quarter to $700 million — from an earlier estimate of $400 million; it has booked $2 billion in recall charges this year. GM’s outside compensation adviser Ken Feinberg plans to unveil proposed compensation to the families of those killed and to those injured in the Cobalt and Ion crashes.

In Monday’s ignition switch recall, GM said it will rework or replace the ignition keys on some 2000-14 cars in the U.S. because the ignition switch may inadvertently move out of the “run” position if the key is carrying extra weight and experiences a jarring event. That causes the engine to stall, disabling power steering, power brakes and air bags.

The recall affects various Buicks, Chevrolets and Cadillacs from model-year 2000-14. GM said just one of the models included in the U.S. recall for ignition switch problems — which totals 3.16 million — is still in production: the Impala Limited, which is sold to rental fleets. The total number being recalled in North America — U.S., Canada, Mexico and exports — is 3.36 million.

GM spokesman Alan Adler said now-fired engineer Ray DeGiorgio — who received much of the blame for the delayed recall in GM’s investigation of Cobalts and Ions — was the design-release engineer for the switches involved in the latest recall announced Monday. DeGiorgio signed off on the original Cobalt ignition switch in 2002 that didn’t meet GM’s specifications; he approved an upgrade in the switch in 2005 and didn’t change the part number, the report found.

Adler said the switches involved in the latest recall were slightly below GM's specifications, but said the problem is a key — not an ignition switch issue.

Unlike the Cobalt and Ion recall, the automaker isn’t replacing the ignition switches — only the keys. GM will add an insert to the ignition keys of the recalled vehicles to close the slot and leave a smaller hole through which a key ring could be attached. In vehicles where the key cover has been worn, new keys with holes instead of slots will be provided.

Fixes are expected to begin in the next few weeks. Until then, owners of recalled cars are urged to remove additional weight from key chains and drive with only the ignition key.

2 of 5 other recalls involve air bags

In addition to the latest ignition switch callback, GM on Monday issued two air bag-related recalls: 2011 Cadillac CTS sedans with all-wheel drive, and 2014 Chevrolet Corvettes with optional Competition Sport Seats.

Three other GM recalls also were announced Monday for new Chevrolet and GM pickups, and for Cadillac sedans.

GM has issued 44 recalls this year affecting 20 million vehicles worldwide, including 17.7 million in the United States — by far an all-time record. The tally includes some vehicles that have been called back more than once.

Spooked by GM’s problems, other automakers have taken a proactive stance. Recalls in the United States now total more 28 million vehicles and are all but certain to shatter the record for most vehicles recalled in a single year: 30.8 million in 2004.

The new GM ignition key recall is a sign of how seriously the Detroit automaker is taking safety issues. It occurred after GM’s recall committee met late Friday, deferred a decision until receiving more data on Saturday and then met again for a couple hours on Sunday, said Adler. The company finalized the recall early Monday and announced hours later — even though it legally had five business days to notify the government.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in a statement that Monday’s “recall raises even more questions about just how pervasive safety problems are at GM. This is not just a Cobalt problem. Drivers and their families need to be assured that their cars are safe to drive. Has the company identified all potential problems? And has GM taken all necessary actions to fix the issues?”

A House panel will question Barra and internal GM investigator Anton Valukas Wednesday. That panel said in a memo released Monday that GM has fixed just 154,000 of the 2.6 million vehicles from the earlier ignition switch recall as of last week — about 7 percent of the total. It said the automaker has put together nearly 400,000 repair kits. GM is looking at other ways to prod more owners to get their vehicles repaired.

Most consumers are likely at a saturation point with GM recalls and wouldn’t be able to differentiate from earlier ones issued by the company, said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst for Edmunds.com.

“They’re doing the right thing,” she said. “Anything that could be a problem they’re trying to fix.”

Caldwell said while some may think the number of GM recalls appears to be getting out of hand, the company is trying to show it is changing. And if the company did not issue recalls and people were injured, GM would be viewed negatively later.

AutoTrader.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs said consumers don’t seem to be paying much attention to all of the recall announcements from GM.

“We are not seeing any — at least yet — any shift in sales,” she said.

Wall Street didn’t offer much reaction to the latest recalls. GM closed up 43 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $36.06, and fell just a few cents in after-hour trading.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said “the scale of resources needed to deal with this many recalls is unprecedented and will undoubtedly impact GM’s bottom line for the foreseeable future.”

Assuming this level of scrutiny is carried forward, he said, “GM should be more insulated from future recall issues than its ever been in the automaker’s 106-year history.”

5 other recalls on various issues for 166K vehicles

In addition to the ignition key recall, GM on Monday announced five recalls for 165,770 vehicles in the U.S.:
■16,932 2011 Cadillac CTS sedans with all-wheel drive. On some cars, a gasket leak where the constant velocity joint meets the rear propeller shaft may cause the shaft to separate or become loose, making contact with the vehicle floor above and causing the rollover sensor to inflate roof-rail air bags. GM is aware of 15 unintended deployments, but injury data are unclear.
■712 2014 Chevrolet Corvettes with optional Competition Sport Seats, because door trim or an unbelted child may block the passenger-seat side air bag vent. Dealers will replace the bag. GM is unaware of injuries, but advises customers to not allow small children in the front seat until it’s serviced.
■68,887 2013-14 Cadillac ATS and 21,863 2014 Cadillac CTS sedans. In some vehicles with automatic transmissions, the shift cable may not be fully secured. If the cable comes out of its brackets, drivers may not be able to shift in or out of gear. GM is unaware of crashes or injuries.
■57,192 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD and 2015 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 GMC Sierra HD pickups to inspect for proper attachment of power steering hose clamps on the power steering pump. If hose comes loose, loss of power steering and power brakes results. GM knows of no crashes or injuries.
■184 2014-15 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups with vinyl floors and accessory all-weather floor mats purchased new with the trucks. The mats can slip because the vinyl floors have no attachments to secure mats. Customers should take mats to dealers for a refund. GM is unaware of crashes or injuries.