General Motors Co.'s (NYSE:GM) ongoing safety recall problem doesn’t seem to be going away. The world’s third-largest automaker by sales is recalling for a third time a group of SUVs to fix a lingering problem: if door switches are exposed to liquid, eventually the circuit boards inside can short circuit, overheat and even catch fire.
The Detroit, Michigan, company is confronting one of the biggest vehicle safety controversies in automotive history and has recalled about 30 million vehicles this year. It’s facing lawsuits related to a faulty ignition switch the company says was linked to 13 fatalities and dozens of accidents. The company said last month it was posting $1.5 billion in recall-related charges to its second quarter, which knocked profits down 85 percent.
The latest problem was disclosed in documents posted this week by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The vehicles affected are: 2006 and 2007 Buick Rainier; 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer; 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT; 2006 and 2007 GMC Envoy; 2006 GMC Envoy XL; 2006 and 2007 Isuzu Ascender; and the 2005 to 2007 SAAB 9-7X. GM has had a relationship with Isuzu Motors Ltd. (TYO:7202) since 1972 to build the Japanese brand’s vehicles for the U.S. market. GM bought Saab Automobile AB in 2000 and sold it in 2010.
On two previous occasions GM tried to fix the problem by putting protective coating around the circuit boards that control the power locks and windows switches, which costs less than replacing the switches. But as far back as April, GM was receiving complaints that its board-coating fix wasn’t working, so GM decided to go with the more costly fix.
“Vehicles that were repaired by having a protective coating applied to the driver’s door module may continue to have a safety related defect,” Brian Latouf, GM’s head of product investigations, said in a letter dated July 2 to the NHTSA (pdf).
However, those parts won’t be available until October, and the automaker is telling owners of the vehicles to keep their cars parked outside rather than in garages. The problem dates back to at least 2012. The NHTSA and GM received at least 242 complaints, including 28 fires. There were no injuries reported in these incidents.
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