July 29, 2014 at 11:10 pm

GM reviewed missing bolts in '13 without issuing recall

A 2011 Chevrolet Camaro owner alleged the power driver's seat moved while driving, causing a rear-end collision with another vehicle. (GM / Contact)

Washington — Despite learning last year that bolts were coming loose in seats in certain vehicles, General Motors Co. ended its investigation into the issue last year and didn’t recall the vehicles until this month, documents released Tuesday show.

The Detroit automaker said in a notice to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in explaining its recall of 475,000 vehicles that it first learned in April 2013 of a problem when GM Engineering looked into a noise complaint on a Buick Regal pre-production durability test vehicle at the GM Milford Proving Grounds.

It later identified 27 warranty reports in 2013 of bolts in the seat height-adjuster coming loose, but opted not to investigate further.

GM opened an investigation and classified it as a customer annoyance in 2013, rather than a safety issue.

This is the latest example of GM reversing gears and recalling vehicles it initially had determined were defect-free.

In recent months, GM has been re-investigating issues that it dropped after determining they weren’t safety issues. The automaker has completely revised how it handles recalls and added 35 safety engineers.

It’s also created a new Open Issue Review team that replaced a similar group with the goal of speeding recall decisions.

In July 2013, the GM Customer Assistance Center learned of a June 2013 report involving a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro. The customer alleged the power driver’s seat moved while driving, causing a rear-end collision with another vehicle.

GM inspected the vehicle and determined that the bolt on the height adjuster spindle bracket, the component of the seat height adjuster motor that raises and lowers the seat, fell out. The automaker then began investigating the claim.

In September, Faurecia, the supplier of the seat frame, provided design and manufacturing specifications to GM in response to a request for information regarding the Camaro claim. The data showed 27 cases of loose or missing height adjuster bolts had been recorded to date in Camaros.

Despite the reports, GM said it found “no effect on vehicle safety was determined.”

In May — after GM’s comprehensive review of outstanding safety issues — the automaker assigned an investigator to look at the issue. During the investigation, a review of warranty data identified an elevated rate of claims for vehicles built beginning in July 2010 through July 2011.

The recall covers 414,000 vehicles in the United States and 475,000 worldwide. It includes the 2011-12 Buick Regal and LaCrosse, 2010-12 Cadillac SRX, 2011-12 Chevrolet Camaro, and 2010-12 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain equipped with power height-adjustable driver and passenger front seats.

GM now says if the bolt falls out, the seat will drop suddenly to the lowest position. The sudden seat movement may affect a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle or increase the risk of injury to the seat occupant in a vehicle crash. Under the recall, dealers will replace the bolt.