NEW YORK — In case you thought there couldn’t possibly be another General Motors recall so soon, you’re just not thinking big enough. This week, GM said it was recalling 3.36 million more cars. The cause: an ignition switch defect that could result in keys carrying extra weight (read: a keychain) to slip out of position and shut the vehicle off abruptly during “some jarring event.”
For those who are just tuning into the GM recall saga, some quick facts. GM has issued 44 recalls in North America this year alone. More than 20 million vehicles have been affected worldwide — a tremendous figure that surpasses total annual vehicle sales in the U.S. The recall pace has snowballed since the start of the year, with only two issued in January, but 14 so far this June for some 4.2 million vehicles. With half of the year left to go, GM is already looking at $2 billion in total recall-related charges.
While some recalls have been over more severe issues than others, the breadth and scope of GM’s fiasco this year reveals a shocking safety crisis. At its current rate, GM is on track to shatter the entire auto industry’s record for most vehicles affected in recalls in a single year, explains Michael Schultz, an industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research. “It’s unprecedented,” says Schultz, who also expects that the company isn’t done yet. “I anticipate there’s going to be more until they have literally nothing else possible to issue a recall on,” he says.
GM’s latest recall is eerily reminiscent of a deadly ignition switch defect that led it to recall 2.6 million cars in February and March. In that case, GM said that if the keys in the cars were at all jostled, the vehicles’ engines might turn off and shut down crucial systems like airbags and brakes; the defect has been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes. Earlier this month, an internal investigation denounced GM for a decade of negligence in addressing a problem it knew was serious. Fifteen employees have since been fired.