The nation’s largest automaker, General Motors (GM), has been through a lot this year. The first hit was a very recent high profile global recall of over two million Saturn Ions and Chevrolet Cobalts over faulty ignition switches. Now the company has announced that it is recalling more than 218,000 older Chevrolet Aveo cars in the United States and 214 Chevrolet Optra cars in the U.S. territories from model years 2004-2008. The most recent recall is because of a faulty part in the daytime running lights that could overheat and cause a fire, according to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Unlike the 13 deaths linked to faulty ignition switches, no reports of injuries or fatalities due to faulty running lights have been made. This week’s announcement brings to total American vehicle recalls in 2014 up to 29, which is a record high. GM has now recalled almost 11.8 million vehicles in the United States and 15.6 million globally this year alone. Its previous record was in 2004 with 10.7 million vehicles recalled in the U.S.
GM has been fined a record $35 million by the NHTSA and is facing probes by the U.S. Department of Justice, Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several states for its handling of the faulty ignition switch, which was discovered by engineers in 2001. GM has been criticized by safety advocates for not recalling the vehicles affected by the bad ignition switch much sooner. In 2005, GM engineers had identified a problem with the ignition switch but executives decided there wasn’t a business case for a recall despite the cost of the repair part being only 57 cents. GM expects to complete the internal investigation of its handling of the issue within the next two weeks.
GM spent $1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2014 on recall-repair costs and estimates that it will spend an additional $400 million in the second quarter for the same reason. More than 70 lawsuits have been filed by customers who say their vehicles have lost re-sale value as a result of the ignition defect, according to court documents. GM has reached confidential settlements in several lawsuits brought by families of victims of accidents that have been linked to the ignition defect.
On Tuesday, two U.S. senators introduced legislation that would require federal judges to consider the public’s interest before granting requests to seal court records in cases that have an impact on public health and safety. This bill was introduced as a response to the GM ignition switch recall.
According to the Center for Auto Safety, it is possible that hundreds more deadly or otherwise serious crashes will be linked to faulty ignition switches. In the past several years, 303 people died in the front seat of Cobalts and Ions, in front-end collisions in which the airbags failed to deploy.
If you own a 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, a 2007 Pontiac G5, a 2003-2007 Saturn Ion; a 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR or Pontiac Solstice, or a 2007 Saturn Sky, schedule an appointment with your nearest GM dealer and ask for the appropriate repairs.
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