June 25, 2014 at 11:04 pm

GM narrows order to stop sales of Cruzes over air bags

2014 Chevrolet Cruze )

General Motors Co. said Wednesday it narrowed its order to halt sales of 2013-14 Chevrolet Cruze cars after the Detroit automaker determined only 33,000 vehicles may have defective air bags.

On Tuesday, the automaker had told dealers to halt the sale of all 2013-14 Cruze cars because vehicles may be equipped with a driver side air bag inflator module that may have been assembled with an incorrect part. GM has sold 119,000 Cruze cars this year and 248,000 last year — though not all Cruzes sold last year were 2013 or 2014 models.

Late Wednesday, GM spokesman Jim Cain said the automaker had identified 33,000 Cruze cars that have the possible defective part and said most were in customer hands. The stop-sale order was modified to include only the vehicles among the 33,000 that are in dealer hands. The move means GM dealers can again sell new Cruze vehicles.

Automotive News reported the stop-sale earlier Wednesday.

GM is likely to file paperwork with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to launch a formal recall of the vehicles as early as Thursday. It would mark GM's 45th recall of 2014.

Cain said he didn’t know if there were reports of crashes or injuries related to the issue. GM had been working with its supplier to determine what vehicles may have improperly assembled parts.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com, said, “The Cruze stop-sale order is a positive move, overall, because it reflects GM’s higher focus on safety.” He said it will have a short-term impact on sales volume, especially during the height of the summer selling season.

The Cruze is the latest in a spate of recent problems with air bags. Since last year, seven major automakers have recalled nearly 10 million vehicles for defective Takata air bags.

The GM air bags at issue were also built by Takata but the issue is unrelated to the recent recalls announced for older vehicles by Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., BMW AG, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, among others. The GM issue a mechanical air bag problem, while the earlier Takata air bag recall is a chemical issue.

Separately, GM CEO Mary Barra will give a live interview to NBC’s “Today Show” on Thursday. It’s one of her first major interviews since GM’s recall crisis. The interview will start around 7:15 a.m with host Matt Lauer and is expected to cover two segments.

GM has recalled 20 million vehicles worldwide in 2014 in 44 campaigns, a record for the automaker. It was fined a record $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after it failed to recall 2.6 million older Cobalts, Ions and other cars linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes for ignition switch problems. GM’s outside victim compensation adviser Ken Feinberg plans to announce as early as next week his compensation plan for the victims.

The Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission, more than a dozen state attorney generals and two congressional committees are investigating GM’s handling of the delayed recall. Barra fired 15 people and disciplined five after a former U.S. attorney found in an internal investigation a pattern of “incompetence and neglect” in failing to recall the vehicles for more than a decade.

GM product chief Mark Reuss told WJR Radio on Wednesday that the automaker is “cleaning up some of the things from the past... We’re changing the place,” he said.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com