DETROIT — After resisting federal regulators for about three years, General Motors is recalling about 56,000 Saturn Aura sedans from the 2007-08 model years because a transmission shifter cable could break, which would keep the driver from being able to shift the transmission into park.
The defect creates a rollaway hazard, according to a report the automaker posted Tuesday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site. The company said in a news release it was aware of 28 crashes and four injuries but no fatalities related to the defect over the last seven years.
The action is the eighth example in about 16 months of General Motors’ recalling vehicles for which it had previously sent a bulletin to dealers telling them how to fix a problem if the owner complained.
In November of 2011, GM covered the cars with an extended 10-year, 120,000-mile warranty because of the problem. But drivers had to experience trouble with their shifters for the coverage to kick in. At that time, GM thought the extended warranty was sufficient to handle the problem, spokesman Alan Adler said.
The safety agency began investigating the problem in May, 2011, after receiving complaints from owners about “unintended movement” of their cars. Later that year, regulators said they found “multiple failure modes,” including cases in which the driver is unable to shift gears; the driver thinks the vehicle is in park, only to have it roll away; and the vehicle is in a different gear than the driver thinks it is in: For example, the transmission is in reverse while the driver thinks it is in drive. Consequently, the agency upgraded the investigation to a more serious engineering analysis.
Mr. Adler, the GM spokesman, could not immediately say why the automaker decided to go ahead with a recall now.
One question safety investigators have been pursuing is why General Motors did not include all the 2007-08 Saturn models in a recall in 2012 that included about 426,000 Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac G6 sedans from the 2008-10 model years and a few 2007-10 Auras. That recall was issued because of a similar problem.
General Motors argued that the cause of the current cable failure was different. In addition, the automaker said, the driver of a 2006-08 Aura would notice if the shift lever was not working properly and would thus be warned of an emerging problem. There would be no such warning on the 426,000 vehicles that were recalled in 2012, the automaker said.
GM says it will notify owners and replace the cable and mounting bracket at no cost to owners. GM hasn’t determined yet when repair parts will be available.
The affected Auras were made between April 24, 2006, and Oct. 31, 2007, GM says. GM stopped making Saturn vehicles in 2009 as it headed into bankruptcy protection.
Since the beginning of the year, General Motors has recalled more than 4.8 million vehicles, including about 2.6 million for an ignition-key defect that the automaker has linked to at least 13 deaths.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.