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It's The Year Of The Recall, And It Finds GM Busy


From NPR News it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. It's the year of recalls in the auto industry, especially for General Motors. This week GM announced another slew of them, bringing its total to 54 separate recalls this year. Other automakers are also recalling more vehicles, but it's at GM where the pace is so fast, that it's hard to keep track. But NPR's Sonari Glinton is keeping track and he now joins us to talk about how the company is handling all of these recalls. Hi, Sonari.


SIEGEL: GM has now recalled a total of 26.5 million vehicles this year, just about every one of GM's brands has had a recall. Are dealers inundated with people bringing so many cars in to get fixed?

GLINTON: So, you know, the appointments are filling up but the real pressing part is for the recall for the ignition switch in the Chevy Cobalt and the Saturn Ions. That's the one the company is in trouble for and because there's so much attention this recall is sort of rolling out in a different way.

SIEGEL: Yeah, this is the recall, the ignition switch recall that more than two and a half million cars are involved in. There's been a victim's compensation fund that's been set up and this is where all the heat and the interest is. How is General Motors handling this?

GLINTON: Well, they have three lines working seven days a week to produce all these ignition switches. But this month they can only produce about 412,000 new ignition switches. And here's the thing, they're making the parts then specific. So if you have a car, you have to order it specifically from the company. So you go in and wait for four weeks to get your specific part for your car. So it takes a little more time than this idea that you would, you know, go into your dealer and they'd have a whole truckload and you just, you know, pull a switch off. It has to fit your specific car.

SIEGEL: Yesterday auto sales numbers came in and GM sales were up about three percent this year over last year, the stock prices increased this year. Help us understand how all of this recall business isn't affecting GM's bottom line. Toyota's sudden acceleration recalls hurt it, Ford's Firestone rollover recall hurt it.

GLINTON: Well Robert, I'm starting to think that a part of this - at least has to do with wording. A rollover sounds scary, you know, your car speeding off, that's scary. This problem you can accidentally hit the ignition stitch, stall the car, which shuts off the airbags, should you get into a crash. Now as scary and as deadly as that turns out to have been, it seems like more of an abstract problem. It's also firmly in the past and these are for a lot of vehicles that aren't even being sold anymore. And finally when you look at independent car reviewers, they say that the new GM cars are better than ever. So it's not like a current problem.

SIEGEL: Now there have been so many recalls this year, apart from the big ignition switch recall, what are some of the other things that people are getting notices about?

GLINTON: Well, everything from lights to airbags. There's fuel lines, a bunch of other ignition switch problems that are unrelated to this one. Almost every sort of part of the car has something that's been looked at by General Motors and any problem, their sort of putting it out there and saying, hey bring your car in and make extra sure that it's fixed and it's ready to go.

SIEGEL: You know, the man who used to run the Consumer Report's Auto Test Center, told me a few years ago that there are so many recalls, that they don't even figure in the magazine's rankings of car models. He said that they can be good for consumers in many ways. They get problems fixed as soon as possible and they don't hold it against a carmaker to issue a recall.

GLINTON: Yeah, the key is how quickly they can get the problem fixed. No one wants to have a recall that, you know, waiting for a part for months and months and GM, especially in this case, doesn't want the sort of idea of this recall to linger and have an effect on its bottom line going forward.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Sonari Glinton joining us from NPR West to talk about GM's handling of dozens of recalls this year. Sonari, thanks.

GLINTON: You're welcome, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.