GM Recalls Another 1.5M Cars Over Power Steering Problems

As its CEO went before Congress to testify about problems with defective ignition switches that have already led to the recall of 2.6 million cars worldwide, General Motors announced that another 1.3 million vehicles are being recalled due to power steering problems.  

The GM power steering recall was announced on Monday, warning that a number of vehicles may experience a sudden loss of electric power steering assist.

When the electric power steering assistance dies, the vehicle becomes more difficult to turn at lower speeds, increasing the risk of an auto accident, GM said in the press release. However, the automaker did not indicate whether any accidents, injuries or deaths have been linked to the power steering problems.

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When power steering is lost, the Driver Information Center on the dashboard will display a message and chime.

The recall affects some Chevrolet Malibu vehicles from 2004-2006 model years, as well as 2008 and 2009. It also affects some 2004-2006 Chevrolet Malibu Maxx vehicles, 2009-2010 Chevrolet HHRs (non-Turbo), 2010 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2008-2009 Saturn Aura vehicles, 2004-2007 Saturn Ions, as well as some 2005-2006, and 2008-2009 Pontiac G6 vehicles. The recall also applies to some service parts installed into some vehicles prior to May 31, 2010 under a previous recall.

In addition to the recalled vehicles, GM is providing a lifetime warranty for the electronic power steering motor on more than 300,000 Chevrolet HHRs from 2006-2009 model years and more than 96,000 Saturn Ions from 2003, which are not subject to the current recalls. Customers who paid to have their electronic power steering fixed after it failed may be eligible for reimbursements, the company stated.

“With these safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right,” Jim Boyer, GM Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety said in a press release. “We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough.”

GM Faces Fallout From Massive Ignition Switch Recall

This is the latest of a slew of massive recalls issued in recent weeks by GM, which is trying to salvage its reputation following February’s recall of millions of GM vehicles which may have defective ignition switches that can cause the car to turn off suddenly if the keys are jolted, such as in an accident, which may disable the airbags and increase the risk of serious injury.

GM has linked the problem to at least 13 deaths, though one outside investigation said the actual number of deaths could be in the hundreds.

On Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra went before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations to explain why the auto maker took more than a decade to alert the public after learning about the problem.

Also called before the committee was David Friedman, Acting Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In a memo released before the meeting, congressional investigators found that NHTSA officials called for an investigation into the ignition switch problem at least twice, and were rebuffed by supervisors in the agency.

“With a two-ton piece of high-velocity machinery, there is zero margin for error; product safety is a life or death issue. But sadly, vehicle safety has fallen short,” Representative Fred Upton, the Energy and Commerce Committee chairman said in his statement (PDF). “Documents produced to the committee show that both NHTSA and GM received complaints and data about problems with ignition switches and airbags. These complaints go back at least 10 years.”

Rep. Upton said the investigation would continue until the committee obtains satisfactory answers that help in the formation of legislation that will prevent another incident like this one from occurring.

Barra, at the helm of the world’s largest automaker for just two months before the recalls were announced, said she did not know why GM sat on the information.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced…but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra testified (PDF). “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers. ”

Barra will go before a Senate committee today. In addition to the congressional probe, GM’s actions are being investigated by the NHTSA and as part of a criminal probe by the Justice Department.

The company also faces a growing number of GM ignition switch recall lawsuits by people injured in the vehicles, by family members of those who were allegedly killed in crashes where airbags did not deploy, and by investors and vehicle owners who say the company was not truthful about its safety record.

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