Japanese automaker Toyota (NYSE:TM) has been the manufacturer most closely associated with large-scale recalls since the unintended acceleration problems from 2009 and 2010, but this year, the recall king may forfeit its crown to domestic manufacturer General Motors (NYSE:GM).
Perhaps understandably, Toyota has been quick to hit the recall switch since its debacle — for which it paid a settlement of $1.2 billion earlier this year — to avoid potential issues from ballooning out of proportion. As a result, the world’s largest automaker reeled in over 5 million vehicles in 2013, but get this: Toyota has issued a single recall already this year that fell at over 6 million units worldwide.
Not to be outdone in any regard, it seems, GM hasn’t been idling on its safety issues. On Thursday, the company issued five more safety recalls covering about 2.7 million vehicles, all in the United States.
The ignition switch scandal is by far the most high-profile and largest recall by volume that General Motors has launched this year. The company has initiated more than 20 recall campaigns covering in excess of 8.5 million vehicles so far this year prior to the recent quintet of campaigns. It’s not even June yet.
The first and largest recall covers 2,440,524 units of the 2004-2012 Chevrolet Malibu, 2004-2007 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, 2005-2010 Pontiac G6, and 2007-2010 Saturn Auras model cars to address a problem with the brake lamp wiring harness. GM said that several hundred complaints, 13 crashes, and two injuries but no fatalities have been reported as a result of the issue. Micro-vibrations could cause corrosion on the wiring harness for the body control module, and cruise control, traction control, electronic stability control, and panic braking assist operation could be disabled as a result.
Secondly, 103,158 previous-generation Chevrolet Corvettes were recalled for loss of low-beam head lamps. “When the engine is warm, the underhood electrical center housing could expand, causing the headlamp low-beam relay control circuit wire to bend slightly. After the wire is repeatedly bent, it can fracture and separate,” General Motors said, adding that although there were several hundred complaints, no injuries or accidents were reported as a result of the problem.
The third recall regards 140,067 2014 model year Chevrolet Malibus equipped with 2.5 liter engines and the stop/start feature. “These vehicles are subject to the disabling of hydraulic brake boost that can require greater pedal efforts and extended stopping distances,” GM said, noting that four accidents are believed to have occurred as a result, but no injuries or fatalities.
General Motors’s fourth recall effort covers 19,225 Cadillac CTS models from the 2013-2014 model years “for a condition in which the windshield wiper system may become inoperable after a vehicle jump start with wipers active and restricted, such as by ice and snow,” the company said. In the grand scheme of things, this effort seems more mild than the others.
But wait, that’s not all. The last recall involves the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light duty pickups and 2015 model year Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs — 477 units in all. The tie rod threaded attachment to the steering gear rack in these vehicles may not be tightened to specification and could potentially come undone without prior warning, the company said. The issue was discovered and corrected during assembly after the small number of vehicles was released, per GM.
General Motors is preparing to take a $200 million charge to cover recall-related expenses for the current quarter.
The spate of recalls reveals a couple of things: First, that new CEO Mary Barra — barley five months into her term — is cleaning house. Any potential safety problem from the past several years is being turned over and exposed, and recalls are being launched left and right to ensure consumer safety at the company’s expense to help regain trust with the buying public. Whether that trust will return remains to be seen, but sales seem to be holding up thus far.
The other thing is that these recalls are shining light into some pretty dark corners of the company’s production cycle. Many of GM’s new products have already been recalled barely a year into their cycle, indicating that while the kinks in production are still there, the issues are being caught sooner — which is progress, we suppose. But General Motors is still slapping Band-Aids on a wound that’s gushing, and to address it, the company will have to dive into the depths of its bureaucratically paralyzed body to fix the issue.