General Motors has announced yet another recall, this time impacting roughly 185,000 Chevy Trailblazers, GMC Envoy and other mid-sized SUV’s after receiving 242 complaints of the driver side window switch circuit boards overheating, which may cause the vehicles to catch fire.
The General Motors SUV window switch recall (PDF) was announced by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on August 5, after the manufacturer acknowledged that fluid may enter the driver’s door master power window switch module, causing corrosion that could result in a short in the circuit board.
To date, GM and the NHTSA have received at least 28 reports of vehicles catching fire due to the problems. No injuries have been reported.
The recall includes the following SUV’s; 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer, 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT, 2006 and 2007 GMC Envoy, 2006 GMC Envoy XL, 2006 and 2007 Buick Rainer, 2006 and 2007 Isuzu Ascender, and 2005 through 2007 SAAB 9-7X models.
Aside from recalling the affected vehicles, GM is warning owners that the vehicles power window modules may short circuit, regardless of whether the vehicle is in use or parked and turned off. GM is asking owners not to park their vehicles in a garage and to leave them outside, away from things that could catch fire until the repair of the power window module is done.
In an incident report from 2008, a woman reported hearing her SUV’s alarm sounding while parked in her driveway. When she looked outside, the vehicle was in flames. Local firefighters had to put out the blaze and reported the fire began in the driver’s side door panel.
The SUV power window module issue first came to the NHTSA’s attention in early 2012 after the agency received multiple complaints of fires in the driver’s-door switches that control the power windows. When GM became aware of the issue they originally issued a “service campaign” on the SUV’s in 20 states and Washington D.C. where salt is used to clear the roads and the corrosion may be most prevalent. GM also believed that since there were a low number of incident reports that maybe the issue was limited to only those cold weather states.
The initial service campaign called for GM to apply a protective coating around the window switch circuit boards to protect from corrosion. This low cost fix did not prevent the corrosion and the NHTSA pressured GM into recalling roughly 278,000 vehicles in cold weather states and offering extended warranties to those in more mild to humid regions.
After continuing to receive consumer complaints relating to the circuit boards shorting, overheating and catching fire, GM realized the incidents were not isolated to cold weather states and that the protective covering was not a sufficient fix.
Spokesman for General Motors, Alan Adler, announced Thursday that General Motors is expanding the recall nationwide for the affected vehicles in all regions due to the protective covering over the modules not working. Adler stated GM plans to replace all of the switches in affected models.
GM Auto Recalls, Lawsuits Continue to Mount
GM has had a horrific year so far regarding auto recalls, reaching its 60th recall covering nearly 30 million vehicles. The company’s problems began in the early part of the year when the NHTSA’s investigation into 13 deaths of drivers whose air bags did not deploy was concluded to be from faulty ignition switches in roughly 2.6 million GM vehicles.
GM had reportedly known about the ignition switch issue for more than a decade before issuing the ignition switch recall, which prompted a $35 million fine from the NHTA for delaying a recall. In addition to the government fines and penalties the company has established a victims compensation fund created for owners and passengers who were injured or killed in those vehicles.
As of Monday, at least 89 victims have filed a claim against the GM victim’s compensation fund and that number is anticipated to be in the hundreds by the December 31, 2014 filing deadline.
A number of plaintiffs have pushed ahead with lawsuits against the company despite the creation of the fund, including claims by those who say they were economically damaged by the company’s actions, and those who were injured or lost loved ones in recalled vehicles not included in the compensation fund.
A growing number of GM recall lawsuits have been filed by those claiming economic damages from the faulty ignition switches.
In early June, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation issued an order consolidating all economic lawsuits against GM under U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman in federal court in New York for pretrial proceedings. The next scheduled conference is set for August 11, at which time Furman may select attorneys for leadership roles in the litigation.
Late last month, a product liability lawsuit was filed on behalf of families of 29 people who died in accidents linked to ignition switch defects, as well as for more than 600 people who were injured. All of the claims come from among the 17 million vehicles that GM has recalled for ignition switch problems, but for which it has refused to offer compensation.