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GM names safety czar amid recall fallout

The interior of a 2005 Cobalt after a 2010 fatality.

New York Times

The interior of a 2005 Cobalt after a 2010 fatality.

General Motors has created the position of vice president of global vehicle safety in the wake of an expanded recall and investigations into how the automaker continued to sell small cars — 1.6 million are affected — with potentially defective ignition switches for more than a decade.

CEO Mary Barra appointed company veteran Jeff Boyer to the post Tuesday. His priority is to quickly identify and resolve product-safety issues. He will meet regularly with Barra and update GM's board on recalls.

Barra, who became chief executive in January, also has ordered an internal investigation into the company's failure to issue a recall over the ignition switches until last month. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM have come under heavy fire from lawmakers and safety advocates for not acting sooner. The Department of Justice and committees in the House and Senate have opened investigations.

In all, GM has recalled more than 3 million cars in the past month, including 1.5 million Monday.

In a video released Monday on GM's website, Barra apologized for the handling of the ignition switch recall. She said the supplier is boosting production of replacement parts. Dealers still won't be able to begin installing them until the second week of April.

"Something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened," Barra said in the video. "As a member of the GM family and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me. And we have apologized. But that is just one step in the journey to resolve this."

Twelve deaths and 31 crashes have been linked to the switches, while one independent engineering study suggested the number of fatalities might be much higher. A number of lawsuits have been filed.

GM said it will take a $300 million charge against its first-quarter earnings to reflect the cost of the ignition switch recall and also for three recalls announced Monday. None of the new recalls involve fatalities.

Contributing: Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Los Angeles Times

The cars and concerns

Vehicles: 2003-07 Saturn Ions, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstices, 2006-07 Saturn Sky models, and 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models.

Reason: GM says the key in the ignition switch can be jostled into accessory mode, disabling the power steering and deactivating air bags. GM is advising owners to remove heavy objects from their key chains until the ignition can be repaired.

Vehicles: Nearly 1.2 million 2008-13 Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia SUVs, 2009-13 Chevrolet Traverse SUVs, and 2008-10 Saturn Outlook SUVs. Some 303,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans from the 2009-14 model years and 63,900 Cadillac XTS sedans from the 2013 and 2014 model years.

Reason (SUVs): Wiring under the driver's seat can crimp and cause a "service air bag" warning light to trigger on the dash. Ignoring the light eventually will disable the side-impact restraints, front-center air bag and seat-belt pretensioners. Dealers will remove the driver- and passenger-side air-bag wiring harness connectors and splice and solder the wires together.

Reason (vans): The vehicles don't comply with a federal safety requirement designed to protect passengers who are not wearing seat belts and who might hit their heads on the instrument panel in a crash. The material on the instrument panel is too hard. GM will replace it with material that softens the blow.

Reason (XTS): A corrosion problem in the Cadillac's brake booster electronics that could cause an engine compartment fire. GM is aware of two engine compartment fires in unsold vehicles at dealerships and two cases of melted components.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press

GM names safety czar amid recall fallout 03/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 2:57pm]
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