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GM Hesitant to Recall Vehicles with Airbag Issues

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Jarod Cassidy3 years ago

Newly disclosed documents suggest that General Motors attempted to avoid a recall for 1.7 million SUVs equipped with defective airbags, even after facing criticism and investigations for their handling of their ignition switch recall.

Service Bulletins in Place of Recall

Last month, GM issued a recall for 1.7 million vehicles due to a defect that could prevent airbags from deploying in a side-impact crash. Among the models recalled were the:

  • GMC Acadia
  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • Buick Enclave
  • Saturn Outlook

According to new documents obtained by AutoNews, however, GM attempted to avoid this recall by enacting a less urgent “customer-satisfaction campaign” and issuing technical service bulletins. Even more alarming, the timeline shows that GM first discovered the issue in 2008.

From the time that the problem was initially detected, GM investigated the matter on four separate occasions and issue six service bulletins to dealers. These bulletins are normally issued for minor defects, such as problems with an interior light, not defects that are deemed a safety issue.

Issuing service bulletins is typically far less costly than recalling a vehicle and are not monitored by federal regulators. They also tend to generate less press.

More of the Same for GM

If these methods sound familiar, it is because GM has used them before. Records show that GM delayed the recall of 2.6 million vehicles equipped with defective ignition switches for over a decade as it attempted to remedy the problem as privately as possible.

This meant sending service bulletins to dealerships advising that owners of defective vehicles be given a plastic insert for their keys and a notice advising them to remove all weight from their key rings when driving the vehicles in question. Additionally, dealers were told to only take such action after a customer complained of experiencing the defect.

A recall was finally issued in 2014, but not before GM had determined that the faulty ignition switches had resulted in dozens of frontal collisions and at least 13 deaths.

According to the recall, the defective switches can inadvertently shift from the “run” position to the “accessory” or “off” positions while the vehicles are still in motion. This can result in a sudden loss of electrical power, cutting off power steering and anti-lock brakes. The loss of power can also result in airbag non-deployment.

General Motors is facing multiple investigations as officials attempt to determine why it took GM so long to recall the dangerous vehicles. GM is currently working with “pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg, a victims compensation expert, to set up a possible fund for those who lost loved ones or were injured due to the defect.


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