TIME Autos

General Motors Is Crushing the Clunker to Save It

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, speaks at the New York International Auto Show, on April 15, 2014 in New York City.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, speaks at the New York International Auto Show, on April 15, 2014 in New York City. Mark Lennihan—AP

Sweeping recalls are the best way to get the trouble of the last few years behind the giant automaker

It’s going to be a busy summer for the service departments of General Motors dealers. The company announced a recall of 2.7 million vehicles, the largest of which involves 2,440,524 Chevrolet Malibus from 2004 to 2012, Pontiac G6s from 2005 to 2010 and Saturn Auras from 2007 to 2010. The brake lamp wiring harness in these vehicles are subject to corrosion from micro-vibration, GM says, which can cause the brake lamps to fail or to light when the brake isn’t being touched. The cruise control, traction control, electronic stability control and panic braking assist operation could also go kaflooey.

GM says there have been 13 crashes and two injuries tied to the main recall but no deaths. The only fatalies related to this recall are the Pontiac and Saturn brands themselves, victims of GM’s past mismanagement, the financial crisis and the company’s bankruptcy. But the scope of today’s action, which will cost the company $200 million, tells you that CEO Mary Barra is not going to get overtaken by events again, as she was with the Cobalt ignition/airbag defect recalls.

Following the discovery that GM had known about faulty ignition switches that could disable airbags on Cobalts and other models, leading to 13 known deaths, Barra was hauled before Congress to explain why GM required a entire decade to recall the cars. In response, Barra created a position of vice president of global vehicle safety and a Global Product Integrity organization within its engineering division. The company also initiated a “Speak Up for Safety” program to encourage GM employee to flesh out any issues with vehicle safety earlier in the process and to break down barriers that prevented communication such concerns across the company. GM’s board is also looking into why it was out of the loop.

Today’s announcement is the latest attempt by GM to get as much bad news out as it possibly can and clear the way for Barra to reposition herself and her company. The company has recalled 11,157,793 vehicles this year. “We will continue doing all we can to repair our customers’ vehicles and rebuild their trust in GM,” she said in her Congressional testimony. Said Jeff Boyer, the new safety boss: “We have redoubled our efforts to expedite and resolve current reviews in process and also have identified and analyzed recent vehicle issues which require action. These are examples of our focus to surface issues quickly and promptly take necessary actions in the best interest of our customers.”

GM is also recalling 111,889 Corvettes to fix a minor headlamp problem, 140,067 Chevrolet Malibus from the 2014 model year to fix a minor breaking problem and 19,225 Cadillac CTS from the 2013-2014 model year to fix a minor windshield wiper problem. The company has also notified some 400 owners of 2014 Silverado and GMC Sierra light duty pickups and 2015 model year Tahoe SUVs to get off the road, and flatbed their rigs to a dealer. The fear is that a tie rod could possible come loose, causing a crash. No crashes have been reported.

It’s not likely that all 11 million cars will show up at the dealers. GM reports a completion rate average of 80% at 12 months for each recall. Then again every recall is an also opportunity for dealers to try to make a sale. Why not get out of that defect you’re driving and get into something new.

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