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GM Expands Ignition Switch Recall To Newer Cars


Now to the misfortunes of another U.S. transportation giant. Late on Friday, General Motors recalled more than 800,000 cars because of faulty ignition switches. Now, that's in addition to more than a million and a half cars that the company recalled last month. Those faulty ignition switches have led to a dozen deaths as well as multiple investigations into why it took General Motors as long as a decade to tell the public about safety problems.

NPR's Sonari Glinton has been covering this story and joins us now. Sonari, thanks very much for being with us.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: It's good to be with you.

SIMON: So how many cars are we talking about and what are they hoping to do?

GLINTON: It's about 2.5 million cars worldwide and what the problem is is these faulty ignition switches where you put the car into the accessory position. You know how when you turn on your car, you can turn it all the way on or halfway on and just the radio is on? Well, the problem with that is that sometimes the car will fall into the accessory position and the airbags won't work if there's a crash.

And that's been a tremendous problem and that's caused this latest recall.

SIMON: There have been multiple recalls recently, what makes this one different?

GLINTON: Well, it is not very different at all. This recall is for the Chevy Cobalt, the Chevy HHR, the Pontiac G5, the Pontiac Solstice, the Saturn Ion and Sky. Those are all the cars that are involved in the recall. The thing is, the recall was for the cars before 2007. This expansion is for ones after when the part changed. Now what happened is that repairmen had been doing in and putting the old switches into the new cars, so somewhere out there there are about 5,000 cars out of these 800,000 cars that have those old bad switches.

And the company is sort of searching around to find which one of those cars has the faulty switches, which means they're going to recall all of them.

SIMON: Is it cumbersome to recall more than two million vehicles to try and find 5,000 faulty cars?

GLINTON: Well, they say they're doing it out of an abundance of caution and you can sort of - the cynical part would say a little bit of PR mixed in because General Motors has been on the hook for not telling the public about a potential safety problem and what they're doing is sort of saying, like, hey guys, we are going to scour the earth. Even if it's 5,000, we're going to recall 2.5 million cars to find as many of these problematic switches as possible.

It's partially PR and, you know, right now with all these investigations going on, the company could use a little bit of help.

SIMON: Well, and of course their GM CO, Mary Barra, is set to testify before Congress next week. Undoubtedly this is going to come up.

GLINTON: Yes, it is. I mean, what she's going to be looking to do is separate the old GM from the new GM, and what her job is is to sort of say, hey, look guys, we're handling this in a different, I'm a new CEO. We have turned a new page, we're a new company, our cars are better. So forget about those old cars that we don't even make anymore.

SIMON: NPR's Sonari Glinton, thanks so much.

GLINTON: Always a pleasure.

SIMON: And later on this program we'll speak with Senator John McCain about what he sees as the wisest course to deal with Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea. And U.S. Supreme Court justices leap back into the Obamacare controversy. We'll hear the justices confront a company lawyer with skeptical questions. The voices of the U.S. Supreme Court justices coming up on our program.


SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.