General Motor hints that its avalanche of older-car recalls is over.
The automaker, still under a microscope on safety issues, will announce more recalls, but expects them from now on to be less numerous and more typical of the overall industry — smaller numbers of, mainly, newer vehicles recalled as problems are found.
GM is under intense scrutiny from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over its recall process and decision-making, and meets monthly with the safety agency. That's part of the fallout from GM's delayed worldwide recall in February and March of 2.6 million 2003-2011 small cars for defective ignition switches that can disable airbags. GM links the faulty switches to 12 deaths in the U.S. and one in Canada.
After that recall, the company began an intensive campaign to identify and expedite any pending safety issues.
While declining to say directly that the cavalcade is over — for fear of raising false hopes that all recalls are ended, or sounding arrogant — GM said it wouldn't quibble with comments by JP Morgan auto industry analyst Ryan Brinkman.
He told his clients in an note earlier this week that "GM concluded its enhanced product safety review that has led to a significantly elevated pace of vehicle recalls."
And a statement from CEO Mary Barra accompanying the latest recalls — 7.55 million U.S. vehicles announced Monday for a variety of defects — GM acknowledges, intentionally used the past tense: "We undertook what I believe is the most comprehensive safety review in the history of our company."
That brought GM's recall tally this year to 54 recalls — an average of 9 a month — involving 25.69 million vehicles, though the total vehicles affected is smaller because some are involved in more than one recall.
The entire auto industry has averaged about 21 million vehicles recalled per year in the U.S. for the past decade, according to USA TODAY research.
GM global development chief Mark Reuss previously told Brinkman that the extraordinary pace of recalls could wind down this summer. And GM's safety chief, Jeff Boyer, told USA TODAY in a interview earlier this year that it would be a sign of business as usual when GM recalls begin to be for fewer, newer models.
Boyer, a senior GM engineer, was appointed to the post in March by Barra and made responsible for cleaning up all potential recalls lurking within the big company. The more and faster the recalls, the better he's been doing his job.
"We've redoubled our efforts to go back and expedite matters currently under review," Boyer told USA TODAY in the May interview.
Among those Monday recalls, though, was a huge one — 6.81 million — for an ignition switch problem in 1997-2008 U.S. midsize and large cars. GM's now referring to the switch problem as "unintended ignition key rotation."
GM links three deaths to that defect. That brings to 16 the fatalities GM says are related to flawed ignition switches.
Some, but not all, the faulty switches in the cars newly recalled were approved by now-fired GM switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio, the automaker said. He was responsible for approving the defective switches involved in the small cars that were recalled earlier this year.
GM also let go 14 others for their involvement with those defective switches.