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GM Recalls 1.2 Million SUVs For Problem With Air Bags

The 2013 Buick Enclave.
The 2013 Buick Enclave.

Already in the news for a recall involving 1.6 million small vehicles with faulty ignition switches, General Motors on Monday added 1.2 million SUVs and nearly 400,000 other vehicles to its list of models with problems that need fixing.

The new recalls, which GM has listed here:

-- "1.18 million Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia models from the 2008-2013 model years, Chevrolet Traverse from the 2009-2013 model years, and Saturn Outlook from the 2008-2010 model years." According to the company, the problem stems from what can happen if drivers don't pay attention to the "service air bag warning light." If that light's ignored too long, GM says, the air bags will be disabled.

-- "303,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana [commercial vans] from the 2009-2014 model years with gross vehicle weight under 10,000 pounds." They need to have more protection built into their instrument panels for passengers who aren't wearing seat belts.

-- "63,900 Cadillac XTS full-size sedans from the 2013 and 2014 model years." There's a problem with the brakes that GM says "could lead to overheating, melting of plastic components and a possible engine compartment fire."

The company says it has set aside $300 million this quarter to account for the costs of those repairs as well as the fixes to the small vehicles' ignition switches. It says the need for the latest recalls emerged after new CEO Mary Barra's "request for a comprehensive internal safety review."

The Detroit Free Press reminds readers that GM "is facing four investigations over the timeliness of its reporting to federal safety regulators reports of crashes or deaths that may have been caused by defective ignition switches on 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s, 2003-07 Saturn Ions, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars."

As Morning Edition reported last week, the faulty ignition switches "have been linked to a dozen deaths. GM has had information about the defect for more than a decade."

General Motors has also been the focus of a safety group's allegation that 303 people died in crashes of those small vehicles when their air bags failed. But as the Free Press has also reported, that group's study has been challenged by other researchers and "death counts can be misleading in the midst of a recall" because the fatalities might be attributable to factors other than the cause of the recalls.

Other automakers have their issues too, of course. Among the most recent: Honda is recalling nearly 800,000 Odyssey minivans because of a danger that a leaky fuel pump could cause a fire.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.