GM to recall about 41,000 cars over leak problem

By on October 1, 2012

General Motors recently informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it would recall almost 41,000 cars and crossovers to correct a fuel leak, but only in a handful of hot-weather states.

The recall covers the 2007-9 Chevrolet Cobalt and its sibling, the Pontiac G5; the 2007 Saturn Ion; and the 2007 Chevrolet Equinox and its sibling, the Pontiac Torrent.

In a letter (PDF) posted on the Web site of the safety agency over the weekend, G.M. said high temperatures could cause a fuel-pump component to crack, allowing fuel to leak.

The recall covers the following vehicles:

• 2007 Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent vehicles originally sold or currently registered in Arizona, California, Nevada or Texas.

• 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s and Saturn Ions originally sold or currently registered in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada or Texas.

• 2008 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s originally sold or currently registered in Arizona.

• 2009 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s originally sold or currently registered in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma or Texas.

Alan Adler, a spokesman for General Motors, wrote in an e-mail that there were no “statistically significant number of incidents” of fuel leaks outside of the states identified. He added that owners outside of those states would be offered what was described by G.M. as special coverage, which would entitle owners to free repairs on the fuel pump for up to 10 years from the date the vehicle was placed in service or 120,000 miles for the 2006-9 Cobalt and G5; 2006-7 Ion; and 2007-9 Equinox and Torrent.

The variation among states and models resulted from different “leak rates” based on warranty claims, Mr. Adler added.

This is typically called a regional recall, meaning the automaker persuades the safety agency that the problem is precipitated by factors like salt use, extreme cold or heat, obviating the automaker from conducting a nationwide recall. Critics like the Center for Auto Safety argue that in a highly mobile society, this strategy risks failing to protect some owners while allowing automakers to save money. The agency has defended the practice.

The special coverage pledged by G.M. amounts to an extended warranty. Recalls, however, make greater demands on automakers than extended warranties do.

All recalled vehicles must be repaired, regardless of whether a problem has appeared, and there is no time limit on the repair. Under its special-coverage policy, G.M. would only replace a fuel pump if it were leaking or if the smell of gasoline could be detected, Mr. Adler wrote.

General Motors told the agency it concluded that a recall was needed after N.H.T.S.A. contacted it earlier this year asking about increased complaints about fuel leaks from owners of the models.

This is the second recall of these models for a fuel-leak problem.

In 2009, General Motors recalled about 53,000 Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and Pontiac G5s because a gas leak traced to the fuel pump could cause a fire. That recall covered 2006 Cobalts and Ions in Arizona and Nevada. It also included 2007 Cobalts, Ions and G5s in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

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In a separate action, Nissan has informed the safety agency it would recall about 2,400 of its trucks and S.U.V.’s from the 2012 model year because the front wheel hub might break away, causing the driver to lose control. The affected models are two-wheel-drive versions of the Frontier, Pathfinder and Xterra.

In a letter from Nissan (PDF), the automaker said it blamed a supplier and said the problem was detected by company officials. Nissan added it was not aware of any accidents related to the defect.

The automaker described the recall as voluntary, but once an automaker is aware of a safety problem it has no choice but to inform N.H.T.S.A. within five business days of its plan for a recall. Failure to do so can result in a civil fine.
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recall, safety, Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet Equinox, General Motors, Pontiac, Saturn

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