In March, General Motors issued a recall for 1.18 million CUVs because the side impact airbag system could fail. This recall involved certain Lambda-based vehicles, but a new NHTSA document suggests GM was initially hesitant to issue a recall for the SUVs and reportedly, hoped to avoid one altogether.
The recall included some 2008-2013 Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia models, as well as 2009-2013 Chevrolet Traverse and 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook models. On March 13, GM suggested covering the vehicles under a customer satisfaction campaign, which aren’t monitored by government regulators and are less costly for manufacturers. The next day, they issued a full recall for the vehicles, just a few hours after telling the NHTSA of their plan.
March wasn’t the first time GM found out about the recall, either. According to NHTSA documents, the company knew about the problem, and that it could potentially prevent the airbags from deploying, since as early as 2008. They also showed GM investigated the matter at least four other times, issued six service bulletins to dealers and even bought back a number of faulty vehicles from customers.
GM said corrosion or loose crimps in the side airbag wiring harness connectors can caused increased resistance, which the airbag system recognizes as a fault, resulting in an illuminated ‘service airbag’ warning light. If left unattended to for a long time, the resistance could reach a level where the airbags and seat-belt pretensioners will not trigger during a crash.
The Automotive News reports GM did not know of any injuries or crashes which can be directly linked to the recalled SUVs. It believed it had corrected the problem with service bulletins, but in 2010, an engineer investigating the problem found 6,800 vehicles had been the subject of at least two warranty claims for airbag repairs. The high number of warranty claims led GM to tell the NHTSA the service bulletins were “not entirely effective in correcting the condition.”
The full NHTSA report is available for download in PDF format here.