June 26--General Motors has told dealers in the U.S. and Canada to stop selling 2013 and 2014 Chevrolet Cruzes because of a potential defect in air bags made by beleaguered air bag supplier Takata.
A stop-sale order is not a recall, but it could have an immediate impact on Cruze sales, at least in the final days of June. Introduced in 2009, the Cruze is GM's top-selling car. GM has sold 119,330 Cruzes this year through May, or 18.4\% more than it did in the first five months of 2013.
The air bag issue is not related to the defective ignition switch at the heart of GM's recall of 2.6-million small cars from last decade that is tied to 13 deaths, more than 50 crashes and four investigations.
"Certain vehicles may be equipped with a suspect driver's air bag inflator module that may have been assembled with an incorrect part," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement.
GM notified dealers of the stop-sale order on Tuesday. About 33,000 vehicles may have been built with the suspect part supplied by Takata. The vast majority are in the U.S. and Canada.
GM is in the process of lifting the stop sale. The company is getting close to being able to identify the cars with the potentially defective part. Once it does, dealers will be able to isolate those cars with the bad batch of parts and sell the cars that are OK.
The issue is different from a problem with the chemical degradation of Takata air bags on older model cars that caused seven automakers to recall millions of cars.
GM's stop-sale order, first reported by Automotive News, is the company's latest setback in a six-month period in which it has recalled more than 20 million cars, a number that exceeds its recalls in any year.
GM has been under intense scrutiny since February for recalling a defective ignition switch in older model Chevrolet Cobalts, HHRs, Saturn Ions and Skys and Pontiac G5s more than a decade after GM engineers noticed the defect.
In March, GM told Chevrolet dealers to stop selling 2013 and 2014 Cruzes with the 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engine to fix an axle that can fracture and separate without warning during normal driving.
Last month, GM issued another stop-sale order on about 3,500 new pickups and SUVs as the company investigated an undisclosed issue.
"We are working diligently with the supplier of the defective part to identify specific vehicles affected and expect to resume deliveries by the end of this week once those vehicles are identified," Cain said.
Nearly 10 million vehicles with Takata air bags have been recalled since 2008. Tokyo-based Takata is one of the world's largest air bag suppliers. Its North American office is in Auburn Hills. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that seven automakers, including Toyota, BMW, Chrysler and Ford, would conduct regional recalls for the air bags in high-humidity areas, including Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota and BMW recalled about 3.6-million vehicles worldwide in April and May last year for the problem, but supplier Takata now says the earlier recall lists may not cover all the suspect bags.
Toyota earlier this month expanded its earlier action with a recall of more than 2 million vehicles worldwide, including 766,300 in the U.S., many for the second time.
No crashes or injuries are related to the latest recalls. There are, however, two deaths linked to the inflator problem, both with Honda in the U.S. in 2009. Honda's latest action is its sixth recall related to the air bags.
The inflator problem now is connected to propellant degraded by improper storage and exposure to moisture at Takata plants in Monclova, Mexico, and Moses Lake, Wash. The problem began as early as April 13, 2000, and was fixed by Nov. 1, 2002, according to a Takata report to safety officials last year.
Takata said this month that it is studying whether vehicles used in high humidity areas have additional risk.
NHTSA opened an investigation into the issue this month and says that it knows of six incidents of ruptured bags and three injuries in high-humidity Florida and Puerto Rico.
A major factor in the size and expansion of the recalls has been admitted bad record-keeping by Takata, which has made it difficult to identify the vehicles that might have the suspect inflators.
Contact Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrentSnavely. USA TODAY contributed to this report.
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