(Updates recall numbers; adds details of GM CEO's Washington
visit, byline and WASHINGTON dateline)
By Ben Klayman and Richard Cowan
DETROIT/WASHINGTON May 21 General Motors Co
is recalling more than 284,000 older Chevrolet small cars
in the United States and other markets because of a potential
fire hazard, bringing U.S. recalls at the automaker this year to
29 and a record number of vehicles.
The two recalls are the latest announced by GM, the largest
U.S. automaker. The recall with the highest profile was of cars
with defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.
The Detroit company has been criticized by safety advocates and
fined by U.S. safety regulators for its delayed response in
catching the faulty switch.
A day after recalling 2.6 million vehicles globally, most of
them in the United States, GM is recalling 284,913 Chevrolet
Aveo and Optra cars in the United States and other markets from
model years 2004 to 2008. The problem with the cars stems from a
faulty part in their daytime running lights that could overheat
and cause a fire, according to documents filed with the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
GM said it was aware of some fires related to the problem
but did not say how many. It said there were no reports of
injuries or fatalities.
Meanwhile, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra met on Wednesday
with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who chairs
a Senate panel investigating GM's ignition switch recall, as
well as other Democratic lawmakers including Senator Charles
Schumer of New York, Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts,
Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Rep. John Dingell of
McCaskill spokesman Andy Newbold said Barra gave the senator
an update on GM's progress on its internal investigation, which
the company expects to complete within two weeks. He added that
the senator still intends to hold a follow-up hearing after GM's
internal probe is complete.
GM also said North American general counsel Lucy Clark
Dougherty is now advising global vehicle safety chief Jeff Boyer
on legal issues in a move to speed up the process around
recalls. But the company downplayed speculation about a larger
overhaul of its legal department and said general counsel
Michael Millikin has been asked to remain in his position.
Last week, GM recalled almost 3 million vehicles globally
and was fined a record $35 million by NHTSA. It also faces
probes by the U.S. Department of Justice, Congress, the
Securities and Exchange Commission and several states for its
handling of the faulty ignition switch, which engineers first
discovered in 2001. GM has been criticized for not recalling the
vehicles affected by the bad ignition switch before this year.
Wednesday's two recalls bring the number of vehicles
affected by its recalls this year to almost 13.8 million in the
United States. That tops the previous full-year high of 10.7
million vehicles that the company recalled in the U.S. market in
2004. It pushes the number of vehicles that GM has recalled
globally this year to more than 15.8 million.
GM took a $1.3 billion charge in the first quarter for
recall-repair costs and said Tuesday that it expects to take
another $400 million charge in the second quarter for the same
Since the recall began in February, GM has been hit with
more than 70 lawsuits from customers who say their cars lost
value because of the ignition defect, according to court
Two U.S. senators on Tuesday introduced legislation that
would require federal judges to consider the public's interest
before granting requests to seal court records in cases that
have an impact on public health and safety.
Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina offered the
bill in response to the GM ignition switch recall. GM has
reached confidential settlements in several lawsuits brought by
families of victims of accidents that have been linked to the
"GM's recent legal maneuvering reaching secret settlements
shows why this legislation is essential," Blumenthal said. "This
legislation would have enabled people to be aware of the threats
to safety posed by the faulty ignition switches, and deaths
could have been prevented."
(Additional reporting by Jessica Dye in New York; Editing by
Chizu Nomiyama, Peter Galloway and Meredith Mazzilli)