Document shows GM hesitant in recalling vehicles with faulty airbag

Article by Christian A., on May 1, 2014

A General Motors document indicates that American carmaker was hesitant in March to recall over 1 million GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and Saturn Outlook crossovers due to long-known airbag issue. Instead of issuing a recall, GM decided on March 13 to pursue a less-urgent customer-satisfaction campaign to address the airbag issue flaw – which is not monitored by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and would have been less costly for the carmaker.

The next day, hours after informing the NHTSA of the plan, GM upgraded the campaign to a full recall, according to a timeline GM has provided to the agency. The timeline also indicates that GM has been aware of the issue, which could make the airbags to fail from deploying in a side-impact crash, since 2008.

According to the document, GM has since launched a probe into it at least four times, issued six service bulletins to dealers and repurchased an unspecified number of problematic vehicles from customers before approving a recall on March 14. GM then expanded the recall two days after. The recall covers 1.2 million vehicles from the 2008-2013 model years.

GM then disclosed the recall action March 17 as one of three recalls that resulted from a safety review ordered by chief executive Mary Barra. GM spokesman Alan Adler remarked that the carmaker had believed it was able to sufficiently address the issue without a formal recall.

Adler said that the airbags could fail only after the driver ignored the warning light for several months, adding that 95 percent of the cases had working airbags. According to GM, it is not aware of any crashes or injuries related to faulty airbags.

GM divulged that corrosion or loose crimps in the side-impact airbag wiring harness connectors could lead to heighten resistance, which the sensing system reads as a fault, resulting to the “service airbag” message in the instrument cluster.

GM said that over time, the resistance could get to the point wherein a crash would not trigger the airbags and seat-belt pretensioners. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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