GM Recalls 3.16 Million Vehicles, Including Every Camaro Built Since 2010

On Monday, General Motors recalled another 3.16 million vehicles built between 2000 and 2014. This was because those vehicles have ignition switches that “may inadvertently move out of the ‘run’ position if the key is carrying extra weight and experiences some jarring event.”

That comes on top of last weeks’ defective products recall in which every Chevrolet Camaro built since General Motors re-launched the car in 2010- about 511,508 cars globally because drivers could accidentally turn the car off with their knees.

This was the same problem at the recall of the deadly Chevy Cobalt last month.

As in most automotive product recalls over the years, GM claims they are aware of only three crashes with four minor injuries linked to the problem. According to the company, the ignition switches in the Camaro aren’t to blame and that the recall demonstrates how it is now trying to jump on safety problems as soon as they emerge. GM tells reporters that the switch itself meets all engineering standards, but made no comment on when it was made aware of the injuries resulting from the recalled Camaros.

According to General Motors, after the recall of 2.6 million Chevy Cobalts and other older GM models for bad ignition switches, the company began testing other models to see if the drivers of other models could also bump the key into the accessory or off position while driving. They found that if Camaro drivers were sitting close enough to the steering wheel, they could bump the combined key/fob.

In addition, GM disclosed another five recalls covering 165,770 vehicles. Those recalls include 57,192 Chevrolet Sierra and GMC Sierra large pickups, which comprise one of the main sources of company profits.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is likely to have a return visit to Congress to answer questions about the company’s internal investigation of how it let the ignition switch problem fester for years.

As a temporary fix, GM has devised a solution in which the key will be separated from the large fob that opens the doors and trunks, until it can provide new keys.  Meanwhile, Chevrolet dealers have been told to stop selling Camaros.

Of the 511,508 Camaros affected, 464,712 are in the United States. The three other recalls announced by GM today affect a total of 65,121 cars in the United States, none of which have been linked to crashes or injuries:

  • 28,789 Saab 9-3 convertibles from the 2004-2011 model years for a cable in the driver’s side seat belt tensioner that could break.
  • 21,567 Chevrolet Sonic compacts from 2012 with a six-speed automatic transmission and the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A transmission shaft can fail, causing various transmission problems, some of which could be sudden.
  • 14,765 model year 2014 Buick LaCrosse sedans for a wiring splice in the driver’s door may corrode and break, allowing someone to operate the power windows and sunroof when no key is in the vehicle.

Also included in GM recalls are:

  • Buick Lacrosse, 2005-2009
  • Chevrolet Impala, 2006-2014
  • Cadillac Deville, 2000-2005
  • Cadillac DTS, 2004-2011
  • Buick Lucerne, 2006-2011
  • Buick Regal LS & GS, 2004-2005
  • Chevy Monte Carlo, 2006-2008

It is unclear how much GM will be protected by Bankruptcy Court.  Since the first disclosure of the Cobalt ignition switch defect, GM’s lawyers have argued that the 2009 bankruptcy filing, in which the debt-laden “Old GM” sold its best assets to a new, government-backed company and left the rest behind, shields it from much of the potential liability stemming from its ignition-switch problems.

In the depths of the recession, GM entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on June 1, 2009. On July 10, 2009, the “new GM” emerged as a new entity completed the purchase of continuing operations, assets and trademarks of GM as a part of the “pre-packaged” Chapter 11 reorganization. The “new GM”  is named General Motors Company LLC, which is separate and independent from the old corporation. The new company retained four of its major brands: Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick. It also kept keep about 3600 out of 6000 of its US dealerships. It closed 14 of its US plants, eliminating 20,000 of 80,000 employees.

I am not a bankruptcy expert but those who are see two ways this could go.

On the one hand, the concept of bankruptcy is get all the creditors in one place, clear the decks and give debtors a fresh start.

On the other hand, a company should not be allowed to hide possible liabilities, then claim they are wiped away with its bankruptcy filing of which potential claimants were never notified. Lawyers for people with claims related to these GM defects argue that senior personnel at GM knew about the ignition-switch problems before GM’s bankruptcy filing but the company knowingly failed to disclose them at the time of the bankruptcy.

My “SWAG” as an interested observer who admittedly stays as far away from bankruptcy courts as possible – until a defendant in one of my cases files bankruptcy — is that the “new GM” will escape liability for vehicles manufactured prior to July 10, 2009.

The litigation over all this has just begun.

I would like to see GM survive and prosper as one of the great companies of the endangered American auto industry. On the other hand, any company should be held accountable for the harm it causes.


Ken Shigley is past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, and lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice.  His Atlanta-based civil trial practice is focused on representation of plaintiffs in cases of castastrophic personal injury and wrongful death.  He spent his childhood living at Mentone, Alabama, and attending school at Menlo, Georgia, in Chattooga County.