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Published: Saturday, 3/29/2014 - Updated: 5 months ago

Total of GM vehicle recalls in 2014 hits 4.8 million

BY CHRISTOPHER JENSEN
NEW YORK TIMES

General Motors Co. announced today that it was recalling 490,000 trucks and 172,000 compact cars, meaning the automaker has now recalled about 4.8 million vehicles in the United States during the first three months of the year. That is about six times the number of vehicles it recalled in all of 2013.

This year’s recalls involve many of GM’s most popular and best-known models.

The recall announced today covers the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups, as well as the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe and the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL with six-speed automatic transmissions. GM said a loose fitting for the transmission’s oil cooler line could allow oil leaks and possibly lead to fires. The automaker said it was aware of three fires but no injuries linked to the defect, and officials decided to recall the vehicles within a week of learning of the problem, said Alan Adler, a GM spokesman.

The compact cars being recalled are the 2013-14 Cruze models with 1.4 liter four-cylinder engines. GM said the right-front axle half-shaft could break, cutting power to the front wheels, although the engine would continue to run and the steering and brakes would still function. The company said it was aware of several dozen episodes but was not aware of any crashes or injuries related to the problem.

This year started well for GM. It had emerged from bankruptcy and had a new chief executive, Mary T. Barra, the first woman to become the head of a major automaker. It had introduced a series of well-received vehicles, including from the Cadillac CTS and the Chevrolet Silverado.

But then came seven major recalls, the most prominent one involving a defect with the ignition switch on the company’s compact cars, including the Chevrolet Cobalt, that has been linked to 13 deaths. The automaker expanded that recall Friday when it added about 971,000 of the compact cars from later model years, including about 824,000 in the United States. The wider recall was needed, GM said, to find about 90,000 defective ignition switches installed as replacement parts on the newer vehicles.

The expanded recall now includes six models: 2005-10 Cobalts, 2006-10 Pontiac Solstices, 2007-10 Pontiac G5s and Saturn Skys, 2006-11 Chevrolet HHRs and 2003-07 Saturn Ions.

Having so many recalls, particularly in such a short period of time, is a problem for GM, which is still trying rebuild its reputation and is more vulnerable than an automaker like Toyota, said Kevin Lane Keller, a professor of marketing at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

“One of the advantages of having a strong brand is that it helps you weather a crisis more easily,” he said.

GM has recalled about 2.5 million of its small cars, including 2.2 million in the United States. The automaker has acknowledged that it knew about the defective ignition switches for more than a decade but did not recall the vehicles. That has prompted governmental investigations, including a congressional inquiry that will start Tuesday with Barra scheduled to testify.

On Friday, the automaker also said it was aware of a 13th death related to the faulty ignition switches. It said the crash involved a 2007 Cobalt and occurred in Quebec, Canada.

GM recalled about 758,000 vehicles in the United States in 2013, ninth among automakers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Toyota was first, with about 5.3 million vehicles, followed by Chrysler with 4.7 million and Honda with almost 2.8 million.



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