Airbag Issues Force Recalls at GM, Chrysler

New GM midsize pickups among those impacted.

by on Oct.15, 2014

They’ve been called one of the industry’s most important safety breakthroughs, but manufacturers might also call airbags a major headache lately, as a growing list of problems have led to the recall of millions of vehicles over the last year.

The latest on the list are Chrysler and General Motors, both announcing service actions due to wiring defects that could cause airbags in some vehicles to fail when needed. The issue at Chrysler is similar to one that forced a major recall by cross-town rival Ford last month.

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Among the vehicles covered by the latest pair of recalls are the all-new General Motors midsize pickups just coming to market. GM initially ordered a stop-sale in hopes of making repairs before the vehicles got into consumers’ hands, and it now says only 138 of the 2,432 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks covered by the service action have actually been delivered to buyers.

That’s not the case for Chrysler, however, as the maker announces the recall of roughly 185,000 SUVs sold during the 2014 model-year because of potential electrical problems. The vehicles covered by that recall include the 2014 Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee models.

The problem apparently was linked to an airbag system provided by mega-supplier Robert Bosch LLC. Similar supplemental restraint devices were used in the 850,000 Ford vehicles recalled last month.

(Nissan announces major new recall. Click Here for details.)

The issue has proven to be a major black eye for the second-largest of the Detroit automakers, Ford not only having to order a recall but take an estimated $500 million hit to its earnings to handle repairs for the airbag problem. All told, Ford advised industry analysts earlier this month it would increase by a full $1 billion its estimates charges for recalls and warranty repairs this year. Added to a slowdown in its European recovery and other issues, that announcement led to a sharp decline in Ford’s stock.

(For more on Ford’s bad news, Click Here.)

Supplier Bosch issued a notice to both Chrysler and to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on October 2nd that the wiring issue at Ford might also plague airbag systems sold to Chrysler – the smaller maker announcing it would look into the problem. It now says it will order repairs to prevent the potential short-circuit which could disable both airbags and seatbelt pretensioners from operating properly.

The maker says it knows of no crashes or injuries related to the issue, however.

Chrysler plans to issue an advisory to owners in the coming weeks and says dealers will replace the potentially faulty airbag control modules at no cost to consumers. In all, 126,772 of the vehicles were sold in the U.S., along with 8,106 in Canada; 3,722 in Mexico and 45,615 outside North America.

GM says it also will issue notice to the small number of buyers who’ve taken delivery of the new 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models. Of the 2,432 pickups covered, the vast majority are still either at the Wentzville, Missouri plant, in delivery, or sitting on dealer lots.

GM issued a so-called “stop-sale” earlier this month when it first learned of the wiring problem which was due to a defect in the manufacturing process. It sent a software fix to dealers who quickly were able to lift the restriction on sales.

The recall was a modest setback to GM’s bid to re-enter the once sizable midsize pickup segment, but analysts say it should have little long-term impact.

The bigger problem is GM’s ongoing flood of safety-related problems which now covers more than 30 million vehicles since the beginning of 2014. The maker is also facing a series of investigations, including a criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department. And a special victims’ compensation fund has so far acknowledged at least 27 deaths were caused by an ignition switch defect the automaker ignored for more than a decade.

(For the latest on the GM ignition switch debacle, Click Here.)


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