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.
"Certain vehicles may be equipped with a suspect driver's air bag inflator module that may have been assembled with an incorrect part," GM spokesmen Jim Cain said in a statement. "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."
GM said it has identified about 33,000 Cruzes, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, that may have been built with the bad parts and said it is close to identifying all the problem cars. Once it does, GM can lift the order because dealers will be able to isolate the cars with the suspect module and sell the cars that are OK.
A stop-sale order is not a recall, and a recall is likely to follow soon for cars already sold and on the road.
The sales halt could put a dent in GM's June sales. Introduced in 2009, the Cruze is GM's top-selling car and its No. 2-selling vehicle of any kind after the Chevy Silverado pickup. GM has sold 119,330 Cruzes this year through May, or 18.4% more than it did in the first five months of 2013, according to Autodata.
That air bag issue is different from a problem with the chemical propellant degradation of Takata air bags on older model cars that caused more recalls this week and since 2008 has caused seven automakers to recall nearly 10 million cars worldwide.
GM's Cruze stop-sale orderand possible recall is the latest setback for GM which has already recalled more vehicles this year than in any year in its history. GM has been under intense scrutiny since February for a defective ignition switch in older model Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac 6, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky cars.
The Cruze stop-sale order follows one last month for about 3,500 new pickups and SUVs as GM investigates an undisclosed "issue" with the trucks.
And this is the second stop-sale order on the Cruze this year. The first was in March — an at-first unexplained order covering 2013 and 2014 models with the 1.4-liter engine. It was followed a few days later with a recall of nearly 175,000 of the cars for a potentially defective right front axle shaft.
GM also this month amended an earlier recall of 2012 Cruze sedans and other small cars for a potential airbag short-circuit, adding about 17,000 Cruzes to the recall.
Tokyo-based Takata is one of the world's largest air bag suppliers and its North American headquarters are outside Detroit in Auburn Hills. A company spokesman could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.
Honda, Mazda and Nissan on Monday recalled another about 2 million older vehicles combined in the U.S. — and nearly 3 million worldwide — as they expand their actions related to Takata air bag inflators that can explode and send metal bits flying.
Separately, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that seven automakers — these three plus 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 will cover a larger area of the South.
Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota and BMW also 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 problem, both with Honda in the U.S. in 2009. Honda's latest action is its sixth recall related to the air bag inflators.
The problem has been traced to inflator 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 Florida and Puerto Rico.
A major factor in the size and expansion of the propellant recalls has been admitted bad record keeping by Takata, which has made it difficult to identify the vehicles that might have the suspect inflators.