GM expands vehicle recall by 971,000 cars built 2007-2011

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Recall Notices

In continuing coverage of the General Motors vehicle recalls over problems with ignition switches, the volume of coverage erupted following GM’s announcement yesterday of additional recalls. Several national outlets and wires are reporting on the new recall numbers, with many others addressing the overall recall scandal and the government’s response in both DOT and Congress.

The CBS Evening News broadcast that early yesterday evening, GM announced it would be enlarging the number of vehicles so that the list “includes newer models.” CBS reporter Jeff Glor says, “it’s a recall of every single car manufactured under six different models,” recalling 971,000 more cars. The broadcast continues, GM counts “at least 12 deaths in 31 crashes” because of the problem, although the company “didn’t start the recalls until last month,” despite having known of the ignition issue since 2001. Furthermore, the broadcast mentions that GM CEO Mary Barra will be appearing before Congress on Tuesday. The automaker is going to start repairs on the switches “in two weeks, but they could take months to complete.”

NBC Nightly News broadcast that the cars in this latest recall “were built from 2008 to 2011 and the vehicles include the Chevy Cobalt and HHR, the Pontiac G5 and Solstice and the Saturn Ion and Sky,” but “unlike the older vehicles no deaths have been officially linked to these models.” The broadcast explains that GM is taking “an abundance of caution” in dealing with the issue. Also, yesterday, GM further “told dealers to stop selling 2013 and 2014 models of the Chevy Cruze with 1.4 liter turbo engines” but “has not given a reason for that order.”

In a long “AP Impact” report, the AP focuses on how NHTSA handled 164 complaints submitted by 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt drivers since 2005, which “was far more” complaints “than any of the car’s competitors from the same model years, except for Toyota Corolla, which was recalled after a government investigation in 2010.” Though the report implies that NHTSA should have done more to address the concerns, it also considers the difficulty of determining vehicle issues. The report mentions that Secretary Foxx last week requested an “internal investigation” of the agency’s response to the GM problems, noting the letter in which Foxx made the appeal, where he stated that there was nothing he knew of to suggest that NHTSA “failed to properly carry out its safety mission based on the data available to it and the processes followed.” Foxx also “said that GM didn’t give the government enough information.” Still, the report makes a point to say “sometimes NHTSA acts quickly … the agency investigated electric car maker Tesla Motors after just two reports of vehicle fires and no injuries.” The AP also reports under the headline “Major Events In GM’s Recall Of 1.6 Million Cars.”

Bold Rid reports online that “NHTSA has had its staff cut by one fifth and its budget ‘stagnate’ in the years since the Ford Explorer safety scandal in 2000,” after which Congress passed a law to bolster the agency’s investigation powers. The report is sympathetic with the staff cuts, saying that “51 versus 248 million,” or the estimated number of cars in the US, “is a lop-sided contest, no matter the competition,” continuing by saying the agency “is terribly underfunded and understaffed.”

Bloomberg News reports that this augmented recall of 971,000 more vehicles “brings the total to 2.59 million small cars.” GM spokesperson Jim Cain explained in a phone interview with Bloomberg News, “We know that these vehicles were built with good switches but what we don’t know: Were any of them repaired with a bad switch … So out of an abundance of caution we’re just going to replace the switches in all of them.” The report points out that, besides the congressional investigation into GM, the company “is conducting an internal review and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating,” as well as the Justice Department. Barra also issued a statement on the expanded recalls, saying that “Trying to locate several thousand switches in a population of 2.2 million vehicles and distributed to thousands of retailers isn’t practical.” The Los Angeles Times reports that Cain also said, “We need to make sure that one of these bad switches did not wind up in one of these newer vehicles. Rather than leave anything to chance, we are going to call them back and replace them.”

A 1000+ word report by the New York Times talks about Florida engineer Mark Hood, who was consulted in the lawsuit of the family of Brooke Melton against GM. Preparing for his role in Melton v. GM, Hood “had photographed, X-rayed and disassembled” the GM ignition switch from Brooke Melton’s 2005 Chevy Cobalt, but Hood “was at a loss to explain why the engine … had suddenly shut off, causing her fatal accident in 2010 in Georgia.” Upon purchasing a replacement ignition switch from a local GM dealership, however, Hood discovered that, despite having the same identification number as Melton’s faulty switch, “a tiny metal plunger in the switch was longer in the replacement part. And the switch’s spring was more compressed. And most important, the force needed to turn the ignition on and off was greater.”

In a separate 1000+ word report on the additional recalled vehicles, the New York Times mentions that NHTSA Administrator David Friedman will also be testifying before Congress this coming week. The report notes that Friedman as well as Barra will face tough questions from lawmakers in both House and Senate committees.

The Washington Post reports that GM’s “slow recall” since becoming aware of the ignition issue “has also put the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under fire for not detecting the problem and ordering a recall.” The report counters with NHTSA’s position, however, which is that the ignition switch defect was difficult to pin down, even “despite opening three special probes of accidents linked to the flawed switch.” Offering commentary in the report as well is one a former administrator of NHTSA, Joan Claybrook, who says, “What is so interesting to me is what the pressure of the public spotlight and the possibility of criminal penalties have done to force this company to behave.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that GM has calculated that a preponderance of the recalled vehicles have driven more than 100,000 miles, which means that many GM dealers are eager to offer their help to potential new customers bringing their recalled vehicles into GM dealerships. Although the company has stated that dealers should not take advantage of the influx of consumers bringing their cars in for repair, the report points out that GM has unveiled a promotion of $500 cash allowance for owners of recalled vehicles wishing to trade-in their models.

Bloomberg News reports that Barclay’s analyst Brian Johnson predicts that GM “will probably create a fund of as much as $3 billion to pay claims associated with” the ignition problems. Similarly, the head of crisis-management firm Temin & Co. Davia Temin says, “I don’t think they have a choice in terms of creating a fund,” because “I think Mary Barra has been doing everything right up until now, and the next right thing is to create this fund before someone orders it. You have to put your money where your mouth is.”

GM orders halt to 2013-2014 Chevy Cruze deliveries, gives no reason. USA Today reports online that “late Thursday,” GM notified dealerships that it would “stop delivering 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruze compacts with 1.4-liter engines – models that account for about 60% of Cruze sales.” Calling the action “a mysterious move,” USA Today reports that the car company “won’t say why it issued the order,” adding that “It’s unclear how the secretive approach to details of the current order fits with the pledge of ‘transparency’ in all GM’s dealings made recently” by Barra. GM spokesperson Alan Adler comments, “I have no details,” only divulging that “I’m sure somebody knows.” Further according to the report, though, is that automakers often issue such notices of halts in vehicle deliveries, which is “almost always related to a safety problem.”

The AP reports, the GM directive for “dealers to stop selling” the affected Cruze cars is affecting 21,000 vehicles, “but the company won’t say why.”

House memo shows GM, regulators missed early chances to correct ignition problem. New revelations on Sunday regarding early knowledge of ignition problems in millions of GM vehicles by both the company and Federal regulators received significant media coverage.

The AP reports that a new memo “from the House subcommittee investigating” the GM recalls says that in 2005 the company “discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect but canceled them without taking action.” The memo was put out on Sunday, “ahead of the subcommittee’s Tuesday hearing on GM’s recall of 2.6 million small cars for an ignition switch defect linked to 13 deaths.” The changes “were later canceled because they would take too long and cost too much.” Later in 2005, GM “also approved but then canceled a change to the key design.”

The Detroit Free Press reports the memo said that “there are indications GM approved the design of the switches in 2002 even though the company was aware they did not meet specifications.” Noting the 2005 action, the Free Press says that “revelations raise even more questions about why GM and federal regulators didn’t act sooner to address what appears to have been a longstanding problem associated with defective ignition switches linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes.”

Reuters reports that Rep. Tim Murphy (R), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, said that the documents portray an “unsettling picture” of the handling of the ignition problems.

NHTSA group opted not to pursue issue in 2007. In a brief piece, NBC Nightly News reported that “federal safety officials declined to launch a federal investigation into the problem more than six years ago, even after being presented by evidence about complaints and crashes.”

The New York Times reports that officials at NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation “decided not to initiate a formal investigation of problems with the ignition switches” of the GM vehicles “even after an investigative group reported that it knew about 29 complaints, four fatal crashes and 14 field reports that showed the problem was preventing air bags from deploying,” according to the House memo. That information was presented to the Office of Defects Investigation in 2007, but the regulators “told committee staff investigators that ‘the panel did not identify any discernible trend and decided not to pursue a more formal investigation.’”

The Wall Street Journal reports that in response to the memo, NHTSA said it “reviewed data from a number of sources in 2007, but the data we had available at the time did not warrant a formal investigation.” The NHTSA acting chief is expected to testify this week before both House and Senate panels.

The Los Angeles Times reports that despite concerns about airbag failures, “federal regulators twice declined to open formal investigations to determine the cause, according to a congressional investigation into delays in recalling the vehicles.” NHTSA and the DOJ “have opened investigations into why it took so long for GM to recall the vehicles. Documents indicate the company knew about the problem as early as 2001.”

Bloomberg News reports an NHTSA manager “recommended almost seven years ago investigating why air bags in some” GM cars “weren’t deploying, a memo issued by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee shows.

We believe that obtaining legal satisfaction from those who harmed you shouldn’t require more hardship. That’s why we do everything we can to streamline the process, and we will file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary. If you or a loved one has been affected by this recall, and you believe it caused an injury, contact Chhabra & Gibbs today by going to www.cglawms.com or by calling this number: 601-948-8005.

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