DETROIT – General Motors’ safety crisis deepened dramatically Monday when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its ballooning list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches.
The latest recalls involve mainly older midsize cars and bring GM’s total recalls in North America to 29 million this year, surpassing the 22 million recalled by all automakers last year. They also raise questions about the safety of ignition switches in cars made by all manufacturers.
In the latest recalls, GM said keys may be jostled or accidentally bumped, causing the ignition to slip out of the “run” position. The recalls cover seven vehicles, including the Chevrolet Malibu from 1997 to 2005, the Pontiac Grand Prix from 2004 to 2008, and the 2003-2014 Cadillac CTS.
The company is aware of three deaths, eight injuries and seven crashes involving the vehicles, although it says there’s no clear evidence that faulty switches caused the accidents. Air bags didn’t deploy in the three fatal accidents, which is a sign that the ignition was out of position. But air bags might not deploy for other reasons as well.
A GM spokesman couldn’t say Monday if more recalls are imminent. But this may be the end of the recalls associated with a 60-day review of all of the company’s ignition switches. At the company’s annual meeting earlier in June, CEO Mary Barra said she hoped most recalls related to that review would be completed by the end of the month.
Karl Brauer, an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said the number of recalls – while huge – may be a good thing for the company in the long run.
“I think there’s a new standard for what GM considers a potential safety defect, and Mary Barra has no tolerance or patience for potential safety defects that are unresolved,” he said.
Lance Cooper, a Marietta, Georgia, attorney who is suing GM, said he was not surprised by the additional recalls and expects even more. GM’s recalls on Monday bring this year’s total so far to more than 40 million for the U.S. industry, far surpassing the old full-year record of 30.8 million from 2004.
The recalls come the same day the company’s compensation consultant, Kenneth Feinberg, announced plans to pay victims of crashes caused by the defective small-car switches. Attorneys and lawmakers say about 100 people have died and hundreds were injured in crashes, although Feinberg said he didn’t have a total.
GM is urging people to remove everything from their key rings until all of the recalled cars can be repaired.
Also Monday, Chrysler said it is adding about 696,000 minivans and SUVs to a 2011 recall to fix faulty ignition switches.
The latest recall covers some Dodge Journey SUVs and Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan minivans from the 2007 to 2009 model years. Most were sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
After Chrysler filed paperwork telling the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the expansion, the agency said it was dissatisfied, raising concerns about whether the switch problem can stop the air bags from inflating in a crash. NHTSA has asked Chrysler for more information in the case and said it “will take appropriate action based on its findings.”