According to recent reports, GM just recalled another 2.4 million vehicles this week, bringing the total number of recalled GM vehicles this year to a record 13.6 million. USA Today got right to the point when it asked, “Are there any GM cars that haven’t been recalled?”
The rapid pace of General Motors recalls is intentional, as the company delves into its records to find and purge lurking safety issues.
But it’s unsettling, leaving an impression GM produces unsafe vehicles and, in some cases, makes dumb mistakes. It recalled 8,208 of its 2014 cars on May 7, for example, because they might have rear brakes on the front wheels.
On Tuesday, GM issued four more recalls totaling 2.42 million vehicles in the U.S. And GM says it has informed regulators about two more recalls imminent but not yet announced. The latest batch includes safety belt, air bag, transmission and electrical issues in a range of midsize sedans, full-size crossovers and SUVs, and pickups.
And the recalls aren’t over ticky-tack problems like a sticky chair recliner button or a window that doesn’t always roll down. Many of the malfunctions are deadly serious. In over 1,400 recalled 2015 Cadillac Escalades, poor welding resulted in a passenger side air bag that might not fully deploy in the event of a crash. Then there’s the infamous faulty ignition switch, which led to the recall of 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts. That faulty part has now been linked by GM to 13 deaths.
That’s all terrible, you might say, but at least GM acted as soon as it knew there was a problem. Because it’s not like the company would sit on the information and do nothing about it, right? Right?
Not so much.
GM knew about serious problems with the ignition switch for years, going back to at least 2007. At that time, GM had hard data from multiple crashes showing that some of its ignition switches had failed to function properly. The U.S. government officially bailed out the automaker in December of 2008. Throughout the five-year period of U.S. government ownership, nothing was done to address the deadly switch. According to one timeline of events, GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, claims she did not even learn of the problem until December of 2013, which just so happens to be when the federal government sold its final shares of GM stock (at a loss of $10 billion, naturally).
Even though the company had data demonstrating a faulty ignition switch for years, it didn’t initiate a full investigation or recall until February of 2014, two months after the government sold its stake in the company. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t initiate a full investigation of the issue until later that month, even though the U.S. government had owned the company for 5 years. The Justice Dept. also showed up late to the party, confirming that same month that it had initiated a criminal probe into the matter.
GM disclosed that its recalls this year would cost the company $1.7 billion.
Taxpayers, drivers, and investors who assumed the government would never fail to disclose rampant safety problems in a company it owned can rest easy, though. Instead of investigating fatally flawed GM components while the U.S. government was the company’s largest single owner, the NHTSA was busy harassing Toyota — one of GM’s top competitors — for an alleged malfunction that led to “unintended acceleration” in Toyota vehicles. Toyota was fined and eventually bullied into recalling 8 million vehicles over the issue.
And what was the final result of the NHTSA investigation?
Many drivers may have confused the gas and brake pedals a problem that may account for “the vast majority” of the unintended acceleration incidents the agency investigated, NHTSA deputy administrator Ron Medford said at Tuesday’s NHTSA press briefing.
“What mostly happened was pedal misapplication where the driver stepped on the gas instead of the brake or in addition to the brake,” Medford said.
Our nation is in the safest and most ethical of hands.