Thursday, 10 June 2010 17:19

GM Recalls 1.53 Million Cars, Trucks for Fire Risk

General Motors Co. is recalling 1.53 million cars and trucks worldwide because fires can be ignited by components that heat windshield-washer fluid.

The company will disable the heating mechanism in the washers of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer and Saturn brands from model years 2006 to 2009, according to an e-mailed statement today. It said it will pay owners $100 for each vehicle because the feature won’t be available and the maker of the units is out of business.

“One big recall probably won’t hurt GM if it’s just one big recall,” said Jim Hall, a principal at 2953 Analytics Inc., a consulting firm in Birmingham, Michigan.

“They have to market on so many fronts. The last thing they need to do is counter market against a recall.” Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide for defects that may cause unintended acceleration. Following the recalls, U.S. regulators stepped up scrutiny of auto safety, and Congress is considering measures to tighten regulation of the industry. GM’s heated windshield washer, which the company said was supplied by Micro-Heat Inc., was recalled in 2008 for repairs. The automaker received five reports of fires in the components in the past year, prompting today’s action, the company said.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had investigated a windshield-wiper flaw before GM issued the 2008 recall. The regulator in 2004 fined GM $1 million, at the time its largest civil penalty, to settle charges the company failed to conduct a timely recall of about 600,000 vehicles for wipers that stopped working or failed to turn on when needed.


Micro-Heat Bankruptcy

Micro-Heat, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after GM stopped offering its HotShot wiper-fluid heater, was based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. GM in 2008 said Micro-Heat should bear the $19.2 million cost of recalling 944,000 cars and trucks for the earlier recall, according to court papers in the bankruptcy filing.


“This was a unique technology available from only one supplier, and that supplier has stopped manufacturing, which left no opportunity to collaborate on an improved design,” said Jeff Boyer, GM executive director of safety, in the statement. “The voluntary payment to customers is for the loss of the feature, not the recall.” Today’s recall includes 1,365,070 vehicles in the U.S., 98,794 in Canada, 26,228 in Mexico and 38,093 exported to other countries, GM said.

Vehicles included in the U.S. recall are the Buick Enclave and Lucerne; Cadillac CTS, DTS, Escalade, Escalade ESV and Escalade EXT; Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado 3500, Suburban, Tahoe and Traverse; GMC Acadia, Sierra, Yukon and Yukon XL; Hummer H2; and Saturn Outlook.

NHTSA this year fined Toyota, based in Toyota City, Japan, $16.4 million, the highest civil penalty, for delays in notifying the agency about unintended acceleration defects.



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