GM says it will ‘rework or replace’ ignition keys on 3.4 million cars

General Motors today said it is recalling 3.4 million cars in North America because bumpy terrain could move the ignition switch out of the run position if the driver’s key chain is too heavy — the same basic problem that began its recall crisis earlier this year. GM said Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer who was fired for his role in the Chevrolet Cobalt recall, also approved the ignition switch used in the vehicles covered by the latest recall.

GM said it has increased its estimate of recall-related repair charges for the first half of this year to $2 billion, which is $300 million more than its previous figure. The company announced five additional smaller recalls today.

All told, GM has recalled more than 20 million vehicles in North America this year, 9 million of which are for ignition problems, though some vehicles are counted more than once because they are subject to multiple recalls.

GM said it knows of six crashes and eight minor injuries related to the latest ignition recall. Those are in addition to the 13 deaths and 54 crashes that GM has linked to its recall of 2.6 million Cobalts, Ions and other small cars with faulty ignition switches.

GM CEO Mary Barra is scheduled to return to Washington on Wednesday for a second hearing before a U.S. House panel investigating the Cobalt recall. She will be joined by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, who this month issued a 325-page report on why GM waited more than a decade after problems with the Cobalt’s ignition surfaced before recalling the Cobalt.

Monday’s recall could add another dimension to the questioning Barra will face, raising questions about how widespread the problems with GM ignitions truly are.

The new ignition recall covers the Chevrolet Impala from the 2006 through 2014 model years, as well as some Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet vehicles from 2000 through 2011. The Impala is the only vehicle that remains in production, though only the “Limited" model sold to car-rental companies is affected, and not the redesigned version of the car.

Instead of replacing the ignition switches, as it is doing for Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, GM said it would give owners either new keys or small plastic inserts for their keys. That means this recall is likely to be significantly less costly for GM and less time-consuming for dealers.

GM said dealers can begin reworking or replacing keys within “the next few weeks" and that owners of the affected cars should remove all items attached to their current ignition keys immediately.

A GM spokesman, Alan Adler, said a combination of excessive weight on the key and a jarring event could pull the key into “accessory" mode. If that happens, the engine cuts off and airbags are disabled.

“The ignition switch is slightly out of spec; however, the whole system is in spec," Adler said. “We don’t have a bad part that we’re replacing. The issue is more external."

Adler said DeGiorgio, one of 15 employees that GM dismissed in connection with the Cobalt recall, also was the design-release engineer for the other vehicles now being recalled.

An internal investigation commissioned by GM of the Cobalt recall found that DeGiorgio in 2002 approved a switch that did not meet GM’s own specifications. In 2006, DeGiorgio signed off on redesigning the switch, without notifying other GM employees or changing the part number, which kept the modification from becoming public until this year. DeGiorgio has not responded to requests for comment.

Today’s ignition recall covers 3.16 million vehicles in the United States.

The key insert will convert the long slot in the head of the cars’ keys into a smaller, 4 mm-by-6 mm hole. GM offered a similar insert to owners of the Cobalt and Ion beginning a decade ago, though fewer than 500 owners ever received one.

“The use of a key with a hole, rather than a slotted key, addresses the concern of unintended key rotation due to a jarring road event, such as striking a pothole or crossing railroad tracks," GM said in a statement.

The other recalls announced today cover a total of 165,770 vehicles in the United States:

• 68,887 model-year 2013-14 Cadillac ATS and 21,863 model-year 2014 Cadillac CTS sedans with automatic transmissions. GM said the shift cable could come out of the shifter or transmission bracket, preventing the driver from shifting in or out of gear.
• 57,192 model-year 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 HD and 2015 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 GMC Sierra HD to inspect the power-steering hose clamps for proper attachment to the power-steering pump. GM said a disconnected hose could cause a rapid loss of power-steering fluid, disabling power-steering assist and powered brakes without warning.
• 16,932 model-year 2011 Cadillac CTS sedans with all-wheel drive related to 15 unintended deployments of roof-rail airbags. GM said a gasket leak could cause the rear propeller shaft to separate or become loose, causing the rollover sensor to deploy the roof-rail air bags. GM said injury data related to the inadvertent deployments is unclear.
• 712 model-year 2014 Chevrolet Corvettes with optional Competition Sport Seats, because an unbelted child and door trim could block the passenger-side airbag vent in a deployment. Dealers will install a redesigned airbag. GM said customers should not allow small children in the front seat until the vehicle is serviced.
• 184 model-year 2014-15 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups with vinyl floors and accessory all-weather floor mats purchased new with the vehicle. GM said the mats can slip under the driver’s feet because the vinyl floors have no attachments to secure them in place. Customers are being told to take the floor mats to a dealer for a full refund.

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