GM halts sales of midsize trucks over airbag problem

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — General Motors Co. said Friday it told dealers to halt sales of its new midsize pickups, which just began arriving at dealerships, because of an airbag problem.

The Detroit automaker said Friday it had ordered the stop sale of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize trucks because they "contain driver airbag connections that were wired incorrectly during the manufacturing process. This condition affects the vehicles' two-stage airbag system by reversing the deployment sequence and disrupting the deployment timing of the driver airbag stages. This condition will cause the driver airbags to not function as designed."

GM dealers will reprogram the inflatable restraint sensing and diagnostic module beginning as soon as Saturday. "Once that service procedure is completed on unsold vehicles, they can be released to dealers and customer deliveries can resume," GM said.

GM says it expects the recall will cover about 2,200 vehicles -- and less than 50 are in customers' hands. It knows of no crashes or injuries related to the issue.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado

It's the latest problem to impact GM as it has issued a record-setting 71 recalls covering 29.95 million vehicles worldwide this year, including 26.44 million in the United States. On Friday, GM issued two new recalls covering 524,000 vehicles. This will mark GM's 72nd recall of the year.

GM said the majority of vehicles are still at the assembly plant, in transit or unsold at dealerships.

"Customers are being sent a FedEx letter and being contacted by phone to bring their vehicles to dealers as soon as possible. The repair will be done at no charge and free loaner vehicles will be available," GM said.

The midsize truck launch ultimately is GM's most important launch of the year and the stop-sale could be perceived by some as embarrassing.

"They're recalling a vehicle that they just launched, which doesn't ever sound or look particularly good," Kelley Blue Book automotive analyst Karl Brauer said in an interview. "But the good news is they're calling it when they just launched it, not recalling it five years later when there's already been injuries or issues because of those situations."

He said he doesn't expect the stop-sale to hurt the launch or GM sales going forward as long as the problem is resolved quickly. He said to most consumers a recall of this size and scope is "background noise."

"My philosophy is ... if GM is finding these problems, that are unavoidable to some extent, quicker and reacting to them quicker, that's the best they can possibly do," Brauer said.

Last month, GM said it will add about 750 new jobs and a third shift early next year at its Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri to help meet demand for the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups.

The Detroit automaker said dealers have ordered about 30,000 Colorado pickups, which is seven times what it expected. Dealers also have ordered about 14,000 Canyons.

"We have had some great dealer early input," said Brian Sweeney, head of Chevrolet sales and service in the U.S., in an interview last month.

About 2,600 workers at the Wentzville plant also build Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna vans. Sales of both vans are up this year through August, with Express sales increasing 5.8 percent and Savana sales jumping 102.9 percent.

The automaker is returning to the midsize pickup segment after a two-year absence and in a segment that has contracted to about 227,000 sales last year. Many customers have switched to full-size pickups, crossovers and cars. The small-truck segment in the U.S. peaked in 1986 at about 1.4 million sales. Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC stopped building smaller trucks a few years ago and GM is touting its three truck size strategy to consumers including its full size and heavy duty trucks.

IHS Automotive expects midsize pickup sales will jump from about 244,000 sales this year to 300,000 by 2017, with the Colorado and Canyon selling a combined about 85,000 for the next few years. The segment currently consists of sales leader, the Toyota Tacoma, and the Nissan Frontier.

The Canyon also has an application that lets people configure a truck at

A base 2015 Colorado will start at $20,995 in an extended-cab model with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission. A base 2015 Canyon, marketed as a more premium truck, starts at $21,880. V-6 trucks also are available.

Staff Writer Melissa Burden contributed.