In vehicle recall blitz, General Motors risks its reputation

Jul 02 2014, 10:09 IST
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The US auto giant has recalled more than 29 million vehicles this year, including the Olds mobile Alero. The US auto giant has recalled more than 29 million vehicles this year, including the Olds mobile Alero.
SummaryThe US auto giant has recalled more than 29 million vehicles this year, including the Olds mobile Alero.

The deeper General Motors digs into its vast portfolio of vehicles, the more safety problems it finds.

The announcement on Monday that GM would recall another 8.4 million cars and trucks for a range of defects appears to be a direct result of the company’s newfound vigilance to rooting out safety issues.

But even as GM addresses its safety shortcomings with a beefed-up roster of product investigators, the spiraling number of new recalls — GM has surpassed 29 million worldwide this year — is threatening to undermine the company’s reputation for quality.

“We’re hitting unprecedented numbers and it’s reasonable for people to start asking, When and where will it end?” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with the research firm Kelley Blue Book.

The vast majority of this year’s recalls for GM have come after the company admitted in February that it failed for years to address a deadly defect in the Chevrolet Cobalt and other small cars.

Yet while GM is now issuing recalls almost every week, the unsettling reality is that the company might never have discovered some of the defects without the Cobalt crisis.

Among the vehicles recalled on Monday are 8.2 million cars that have faulty ignition systems that could suddenly cause the vehicles to lose power.

That was essentially the problem with 2.6 million recalled Cobalts and other cars linked to 13 deaths and 54 accidents. Defective ignitions have also forced the recalls in June of 3.4 million midsize cars and more than 500,000 Camaros.

And the problem is not isolated to GM cars. Chrysler on Monday said it, too, would recall 696,000 sport utility vehicles and minivans made between 2007 and 2009 over a concern that the ignition key might turn off the engine. The move came after federal safety regulators said in June that they were conducting a review of all the major automakers for ignition-switch problems.

GM’s chief executive, Mary Barra, said Monday’s recalls were part of “the most comprehensive safety review in the history of our company”.

A company spokesman said the recalls were not being done in any particular order, but rather were ordered as soon as the relevant data was discovered. “When it was clear there was an issue, we acted,” said James Cain, the

GM spokesman.

The Cobalt crisis and GM’s subsequent internal investigation shed light on years of lax safety practices. Fifteen employees have been dismissed for their roles in allowing the original ignition defect to go unrepaired for

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