GM: Just 47K switches fixed, but pace picking up – USA TODAY

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2014

CORRECTED May 23 to reflect GM restatement of recall totals.

General Motors safety chief Jeff Boyer says that just 47,000 cars so far have gotten new ignition switches among the 2.19 million cars recalled in the U.S. for a potentially deadly switch flaw.

But he says the production of the repair components now is zooming at supplier Delphi, and the pace of recall repairs will rise dramatically. In a rare interview, the newly appointed Global Vehicle Safety vice president tells USA TODAY that hundreds of thousands of repair kits are en route to dealers.

The company estimates 1 million kits will be on hand in August and that Delphi will have supplied enough to fix all the recall cars by the end of October. GM isn’t promising to have all the cars fixed by then, partly because it must depend on owners to bring in their cars for the repair, which takes 60 to 90 minutes.

Boyer, 58, has the hottest seat in the auto industry. The senior GM engineer was appointed to the post in March by GM CEO Mary Barra and was made responsible for cleaning up on all potential recalls lurking within the big company. The more and faster the recalls, the better he’s doing his job.

GM’s recall tally so far this year: a staggering 13.79 million U.S. cars.

“We’re making some big changes in our overall vehicle-recall process,” Boyer says, “resulting in a larger than normal number of recalls. … We’ve redoubled our efforts to go back and expedite matters currently under review.”

GM no longer waits for definitive analyses of potential flaws and is acting “very promptly” if a problem appears to “present an unreasonable risk to safety,” Boyer says.

A staff of about 55 data-miners culls everything from GM’s own reports to complaints on social media to find possible problems, he says.

This week alone, GM announced six recalls for 2.6 million U.S. vehicles involving safety belts, air bags, engine and dashboard fires and transmission cables.

The recent flurry of recalls could persist into mid-summer and could include cars previously recalled for other issues, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote in a research note to clients Thursday, citing a conversation he had with GM product development chief Mark Reuss.

“This will increase the frequency of recalls, but will reduce the total number of vehicles recalled,” Johnson wrote.

Boyer’s job was created specifically to prevent a repeat of the ignition switch scandal. GM documents show references began in 2001 to ignition switches inadvertently moving out of “run,” which shuts off the engine, kills power assist to steering and brakes and disables air bags. But the recall of older Saturn Ion, Chevrolet Cobalt and other small cars only came this year.

The government fined GM the maximum $35 million and imposed “unprecedented oversight” for delay of that recall, linked to 12 deaths in the U.S. and one in Canada.

Boyer: “The ignition recall has lead us to re-examine all parts of our business.”


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