General Motors recalls another 2.7 million vehicles

General Motors has agreed to pay a $35 million dollar civil penalty over its failure to promptly report a defect that was discovered more than a decade ago. The faulty ignition switches have been linked to at least 13 deaths. (Reuters)

General Motors recalled another 2.7 million vehicles Thursday, adding to the flood of safety repairs it is making in the wake of its slow action to address an ignition switch flaw that has been linked to 13 deaths.

The latest action covers eight different models and brings the number of vehicles recalled this year by the nation’s largest automaker to more than 11.1 million in the United States and 12.8 million worldwide. That put GM on course to break its 2004 domestic recall record of 11.8 million vehicles, the company said.

GM said the increasing number of recalls does not mean that the company’s vehicles are more problematic. What it does mean, GM said, is that the company is being more responsive to problems following the ignition switch debacle.

“We have redoubled our efforts to expedite and resolve current reviews in process and also have identified and analyzed recent vehicle issues which require action,” Jeff Boyer, GM’s recently installed vice president of global vehicle safety, said in a statement. “These are examples of our focus to surface issues quickly and promptly take necessary actions in the best interest of our customers.”

In addition, the company said it is pushing to resolve consumer complaints and any differences with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates the auto industry.

“We are working aggressively to resolve open federal investigations,” said Alan Adler, a company spokesman.

This year, the company issued recalls for 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars equipped with ignition switches that can inadvertently switch to “accessory” position, causing the car to stall, disabling air bags and stiffening brakes and steering.

GM acknowledged knowing about the problem for at least a decade before the recall, a delay that has triggered investigations by Congress, federal prosecutors and federal regulators.

In addition, both GM and its board have launched internal probes.

The delayed recall was followed by a flurry of lawsuits from accident victims and their survivors. GM has hired mediation expert Kenneth Feinberg to explore establishing a compensation fund for victims. Meanwhile, the automaker is fighting suits from others, including shareholders and owners of recalled cars, who are claiming economic loss because of the ignition problem.

The company has issued 24 recalls this year, and they are taking a financial toll. In the first quarter, GM set aside $1.3 billion to pay for the recalls. The automaker said Thursday that it would take an additional $200 million charge in the second quarter to cover recall costs.

The latest recalls involve a range of problems, including long-standing complaints about brake-light malfunctions affecting 2.4 million Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aurora and Pontiac G6 midsize cars.

The problem could cause corrosion to develop in cars’ wiring harnesses, resulting in brake lights not working when the brakes are applied or in the lights coming on when the brakes are not engaged.

GM said it is aware of several hundred complaints, 13 crashes and two injuries resulting from the problem, which has been subject to an investigation by federal safety regulators. GM said it has know about the problem since 2008 but previously tried to deal with it by issuing a bulletin to dealers.

Other cars are being recalled to fix problems with power brakes, headlights and windshield wipers, GM said.

Michael A. Fletcher is a national economics correspondent, writing about unemployment, state and municipal debt, the evolving job market and the auto industry.
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