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General Motors' Latest Recall: All the New Camaros

Every fifth-generation Chevy Camaro was recalled on Friday, including these supercharged Camaro ZL1s. The problem: The Camaro's distinctive key fob is too big. Source: General Motors Co.

If it's Friday, then there must be some new General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) recall news.

GM on Friday morning announced four new recalls, bringing its total number of recall campaigns for 2014 to 38 (and counting). 

Three of the new recalls are relatively minor, but one was a doozie: Every Chevrolet Camaro made since 2010 is being recalled for -- wait for it -- an ignition-switch issue.

The problem: The key fob is too big
Technically, the recall of all 511,528 fifth-generation Camaros isn't for an issue with the ignition switch itself. And just to be clear, the Camaro's switch is a part that is unrelated to the defective switches in older GM compacts that have been blamed for at least 13 deaths.

What GM is recalling is the Camaro's key fob. Like many modern cars, the Camaro has remote controls for the door locks and so forth built into its key fob. But unlike most other cars, the metal key itself is also integrated into the fob, with a trick touch: the metal key "blade" retracts into the fob, and snaps out at the touch of a button.

It's a cool little unit, and most Camaro owners love them. But apparently, if a driver's knee is a little too close to the steering column, it's a little too easy to bump that big fob and knock the ignition switch out of the "run" position.

Sound familiar? That's what GM thought.

GM says it discovered the issue "during internal testing following the ignition switch recall earlier this year." The company said that it is aware of three crashes, and four minor injuries, that may be attributed to drivers' knees bumping the big key fobs.

GM dealers will fix the issue by making the key and the fob "independent of each other", GM says. That sounds less cool, but is presumably safer.

Meanwhile, GM's larger recall drama continues to unfold.

Meanwhile, GM's plan to compensate its victims is proceeding
Speaking at this week's annual meeting of GM shareholders, CEO Mary Barra said that GM's plans to set up a compensation fund for victims of accidents related to the defective ignition switches were proceeding. 

GM has retained Kenneth Feinberg, the attorney who ran compensation funds for victims of the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings, to create a compensation program for its accident victims. As a condition of its bankruptcy deal, GM is legally shielded from claims arising from accidents that happened before it emerged from bankruptcy in mid-2009. 

GM CEO Mary Barra spoke at GM's annual shareholders' meeting on Tuesday. Source: General Motors Co.

But GM isn't morally shielded, something that Barra has acknowledged from the start of this mess. Barra said that Feinberg's program would underscore GM"s commitment "to do the right thing... and treat accident victims and their families with compassion, decency, and fairness."

She didn't say how much money GM will be kicking into that fund. But she did say that GM would disclose the approximate cost sometime next month, and that the fund would begin accepting claims on Aug. 1.

The end of this drama still isn't in sight
The 38 recalls that GM has announced in North America so far this year total almost 16.5 million vehicles, though the actual number of affected vehicles isn't quite that high, as some were recalled more than once. 

But many of those vehicles were the product of "Old GM", General Motors as it existed before its 2009 bankruptcy. Barra pointed out that about 70% of the cars and trucks that GM has recalled this year are models that are no longer in production. 

That reflects well on GM's current vehicle lineup, and it may be part of the reason why GM's sales haven't been significantly affected by all of the harsh recall-related publicity. 

But as the exhaustive investigative report assembled by attorney Anton Valukas showed, Barra and GM still have a tremendous amount of work to do to fix the company's long-broken culture. 

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 16, 2014, at 10:21 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    JR: So its MONDAY and GM announces another recall. I suspect we are going to have a recall a day (yes I am exaggerating) until GM gets all the reviews done and all the bad news out.


    Well, I would expect that they are reviewing every lovin products ignition switch and circuit and key fob and ....(fill in the blank) to be sure they get it all identified and out.

    This also suggests, JR that the culture suppress or maybe even OPPRESSED those who had the temerity to propose problems with finished designs.... As an engineer I lived in such a culture for a short time..and got the hell out as fast as I could manage to find a better proposition.

    15 miscreants could not do ALL this damage. Some of the responsible still hang their hats at GM. The question is, will they "strike again" before they get waling papers or retire?

    Might I suggest to you this subject is worth a whole article unto itself?

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John Rosevear

John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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