Reuters reports a lawsuit related to the 2014 General Motors recall crisis filed in federal court in California has placed airbag supplier Continental Automotive Systems U.S. at-fault for its role in the recall. Attorney Adam Levitt of Grant & Eisenhoffer proclaimed the supplier knew about the out-of-spec ignition switch at the heart of the recall as early as 2005, yet “did nothing to redesign its airbags” to deploy even when electrical power was cut, “nor did it warn NHTSA or the public.” Continental joins Delphi Automotive as the second supplier to face a lawsuit linked to the ongoing recall crisis.
Between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and GM, Automotive News says the former found itself pushing the latter on a number of occasions to do more than issue service bulletins, regional recalls, warranty extensions and customer-satisfaction campaigns regarding problems ranging from corroded fuel filler pipes in full-size vans and risks of fire from door modules in fullsize SUVs, to malfunctioning airbags in Camaros and Malibus and the aforementioned ignition switch affected over 2.26 million 2003 – 2011 vehicles to date. In a 2013 email released to the public by the ongoing Congressional investigation into the recall, NHTSA Office of Defects Investigation director Frank Borris expressed his frustration with the automaker to GM executive Carmen Benavides over GM’s slow approach to communication and action, as well as needing more provoking to do more than the least amount of effort to resolve an issue.
In more NHTSA/GM news, The Detroit News reports the agency has closed the book on its four-year investigation of 334,000 2004 – 2007 Saturn Ions regarding steering problems after the automaker announced they would recall the cars. Four service bulletins linked to power-steering repairs will be issued by GM, affecting the Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt, as well as the Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu. A total of 10 crashes linked to power-steering failure — with two resulting in injury — 4,787 complaints and 30,560 warranty claims were discovered by the NHTSA during the investigation.
As for bringing the affected vehicles in for service, Automotive News reports GM-affiliated and non-GM dealerships are having a rough time with the recalls, citing a lack of parts, growing backlog of recall-related repairs, and lost sales and dealer-related financing. However, GM President Dan Ammann says the main recall hasn’t had a “measurable impact” on overall sales, citing a 4 percent truck-led U.S. sales gain in March and a “decent start” to April’s sales. That said, Ammann has not ruled out a future impact from the recall news.
In the meantime, GM will invest $12 billion into China by 2017, with plans to boost production capacity 65 percent by 2020 based on expectations of the local market to reach 33 million to 35 million new vehicles made per year by the start of the new decade, which Ammann claims will be double that of total projected U.S. demand at the same time. The expansion would total capacity to 8 million units per year, fueled by 60 all-new or refreshed products introduced to China between now and 2018, including 11 new utility vehicles — such as the Chevrolet Trax — and a new Cadillac model every year through 2016.
Finally, The Detroit News reporter Henry Payne took to heart GM CEO Mary Barra’s statement before Congress about allowing her son to drive an affected Cobalt so long as the key was by itself in the ignition switch, turning up at a local dealership to drive an affected 2006 Cobalt to see for himself what would happen. In short: Nothing involuntary, as Payne had to put the switch into the “accessory” position himself to recreate what may have happened in the reported accidents and fatalities linked to the switch.