A few years ago, there was a movie that briefly appeared and had the absurd title: “What if they gave a war and no one came?” Well, here’s another equally absurd – but true – question: “What if they gave a safety recall and no one came because the parts weren’t there?”
That’s exactly what happened to many owners of compact-sized General Motors vehicles today when they received a very official-looking letter from GM with the block, bold lettering “Important safety recall” at the very top.
Not hard to miss
It’s really not hard to miss and it makes you think that finally someone is getting something done – hooray for Mary Barra.
Well, let’s not run ahead of ourselves my friends because almost immediately after you see the heading and you are told that this is just being sent to you to comply with the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, you also notice a very key phrase: “Parts are not currently available to repair your vehicle.” (boldface, GM’s, italics by the author).
That’s some kick in the teeth. On one hand it looks like the problem has been remedied while on the other they announce they don’t have the parts for it. (This letter has apparently been repeated across all of GM’s lines.)
It’s something that boggles the mind and the letter is all business as it makes it seem as if everything is all right, when it rightly is now.
Just how widespread?
Speaking as if you can’t possibly understand the complexities involved in recalling and repairing vehicles, GM states the following:
“General Motors has decided that a defect which relates to motor vehicle safety exists in:
- All 2004-2012 model year (MY) Chevrolet Malibu
- 2004-2007 MY Chevrolet Malibu Maxx (the lone hatchback)
- 2005-2010 MY Pontiac G6
- 2007-2010 – Saturn Aura vehicles
“As a result, GM is conducting a recall. We apologize for any inconvenience. However, we are concerned about your safety and continued satisfaction with our products.”
Here’s the thing
One wonders whether GM owners either live in a tree or under a rock or in a cave because this issue has been buzzing around the automaker like a cloud of angry hornets for at least four months, at the level where the buzz is now. Earlier, cases were settled on a one-by-one basis with confidentiality agreements being signed (gag orders so the parties couldn’t talk about them).
Finally, GM is telling us, in an unusually paternalistic tone that on “these vehicles, over time an increase resistance can develop in the Body Control Module (BCM) connection to the system.”
Translating their geek-speak, what happens next is that because there increased resistance to the flow of current, this can cause the current to fluctuate. This nastiness can be followed by intermittents (brief shorts that are tough to find, if you can find them) in the Brake Apply Sensor (BAS) circuit that “can cause a brake lamp malfunction.”
The result of this is that the brake lights may light up when you are moving along at speed or may just not work when you hit the brakes and you need them.
Here’s what happens next:
- The cruise control may not disengage.
- If the cruise is engaged (this is their language) “additional service brake pedal travel may be required to disengage it.” But, what happens if your car’s system is way down on pressure because of the problem, too, though no one has said this happens, we have to emphasize, but with something like this, you never know.
- “Service brake pedal application may not be required to move the shift lever out of PARK, or additional service brake pedal travel may be required to move the shift lever out of PARK,” says GM.
- Traction Control may be disabled.
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) may be disabled.
- Panic Braking-Assist features may also be disabled.
If you find that your vehicle’s dashboard-mounted service lights go on (they are the Service ESC and/or Traction Control lights), GM emphasizes that “these condition s may increase the risk of a crash.
In an effort to be good Scouts, GM then tells you that although the proper parts aren’t available, when they are, they will be put in free of charge (that’s a nice commitment although the National Highway Traffic Safety Act also mandates it). The automaker is working just as hard as it can to get those fixes out into the field.
When they are ready and notify you, it’s time to contact your dealer and set up an appointment.
There’s only one salient question left, that many writers and commentators have hinted at: how many kits will be needed as many of these vehicles may be gone by the time they get the parts ready.
General Motors has launched a recall and not a moment too soon. You see, they are so efficient at getting their recalls launched that they just don’t have the parts needed yet. But, they are having a recall, just the same. All you have to do is wait for a call from your dealer and you are ready to go. The only remaining question is when that will happen.