Business & Economy

GM recalls another 3.2M cars in US for ignition switch problems

File photo - The logo for General Motors decorates the entrance at the site of a GM information technology center in Roswell, Ga. On Monday, GM announced the recall of an additional 3.2 million vehicles in the United States for ignition switch problems.
File photo - The logo for General Motors decorates the entrance at the site of a GM information technology center in Roswell, Ga. On Monday, GM announced the recall of an additional 3.2 million vehicles in the United States for ignition switch problems.
David Goldman/AP

General Motors is recalling 3.2 million more cars in the U.S. because of ignition switch problems.

The company says it will change or replace the keys on the cars from the 2000 to 2014 model years.

GM says the switches can unexpectedly move out of the "run" position if the cars are jarred, such as by going over railroad tracks or a pothole. That can shut off the engines and disable power steering.

The recall is part of a GM review of ignition switches after the company recalled 2.6 million older small cars earlier this year for a similar problem.

GM also is recalling 166,000 other cars for a series of problems.

And the company raised its expected second-quarter charge for recall expenses to $700 million.

4 months into GM recall, only 7 pct. of cars fixed 

More than four months after the company began its earlier recall of 2.6 million small cars to fix ignition switches, the company has repaired only 7 percent of the vehicles.

Through Thursday, GM had repaired almost 177,000 of the cars and shipped about 423,000 parts kits to dealers worldwide.

GM says the repairs have been delayed as Delphi Corp., the switch maker, ramps up production of a part for cars that the company is no longer making.

Initially Delphi had only one assembly line building replacement switches, which slowed parts distribution. Now the company has two lines running, and GM expects a third to be operational in late July or early August, spokesman Kevin Kelly said Monday.

"This part wasn't in production anymore. It's taken time to get production back up," said Kelly. GM's stated goal is to have all 2.6 million replacement parts produced by late October.

Also complicating the ignition switch recall was a separate ignition lock cylinder recall affecting the same vehicles. GM suppliers have had to make both parts, then the company ships them to dealers in a single repair kit.

GM has offered free loaner cars to those afraid to drive their own vehicles. So far it has paid for almost 67,000.

GM began recalling the cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions from the 2004 through 2010 model years, in February. The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip from the "run" to "accessory" position, shutting off the engine. That shuts off the power steering and power brakes, making cars harder to control. It also disables the air bags, which won't inflate in a crash.

GM says the problem has caused at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths, but trial lawyers suing GM say the death toll is more than 60. GM has acknowledged knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet the cars weren't recalled until this year.

GM CEO Mary Barra will testify in front of a House subcommittee about the matter for a second time on Wednesday.

Congress to scrutinize GM's corporate culture 

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette wants General Motors to explain how it plans to fix what's been described as a lax corporate culture and how the company plans to compensate victims of crashes tied to faulty ignition switches.

The Colorado Democrat on Monday outlined questions she'll pose to new GM CEO Mary Barra during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

DeGette, the ranking member of the House committee investigating GM's earlier recall of 2.6 million small cars, noted a company-commissioned report released this month that showed "the GM corporate culture was so siloed that they were unable to catch some of the safety problems and get them promptly fixed, even though they continually recurred."

In addition to any company solutions, DeGette said she wants to know "how is it that GM was able to come up with a culture that led to this sort of practice of sweeping things under the rug."

GM has linked the ignition switch problem to at least 13 deaths in crashes involving Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions. Congress and the Justice Department are investigating why GM knew about the switch problem for at least a decade but only started recalling the cars this February.

The report from Anton Valukas, a former federal prosecutor hired by GM, highlighted bad corporate habits, such as the "GM nod" — agreeing on a plan of action but doing nothing.

"And that's what helps cause an atmosphere that could let something like this happen," DeGette said. "And so what I want to know is what are they going to do to break this culture."

DeGette aggressively questioned Barra during the CEO's first appearance before Congress in April. She held up one of the recalled switches while citing a GM document that said replacements would cost the company just 57 cents apiece.

DeGette said Monday that she also wants more details about any compensation plans from GM. The automaker has hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to implement a compensation strategy.

Feinberg has handled compensation plans for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and donations to victims of the 2012 movie-theater shooting in suburban Denver.

DeGette said lawmakers also want to figure out how to communicate better with drivers who may have faulty GM vehicles. She noted that despite millions of cars being recalled, only a small percentage have been fixed because the drivers are often the second or third owners and they're not getting the notices, or they're ignoring them.