DETROIT—General Motors’ efforts to root out lingering safety problems across its wide range of cars and trucks has produced another huge recall and highlights a sudden shift throughout the industry toward issuing recalls instead of avoiding them.
The biggest U.S. automaker announced a total of five recalls covering 2.9 million vehicles—including 204,000 in Canada.
The biggest involves 2.4 million midsize cars from model years 2004 to 2012 with brake lights that can fail.
GM says it knew about the brake light problem as early as 2008. That year it issued what’s known as a technical service bulletin, but that only required dealers to offer to fix the problem if the owner became aware of it.
In announcing the recall, GM said the brake light problem has been tied to 13 accidents and two injuries.
GM launched a top-to-bottom safety review after recalling 2.6 million small cars earlier this year for faulty ignition switches. GM knew about that problem for at least a decade. The switch problem, which can unexpectedly shut down a car’s engine, has been linked to at least 13 deaths and has prompted multiple investigations, including one by the Justice Department.
The recalls could also add to scrutiny of federal safety regulators, who were criticized for their handling of the ignition switch problem. Documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that neither the company nor the government sought a recall to fix the brake light issue despite 1,300 consumer complaints and more than 14,000 warranty claims as of February of last year.
Jeff Boyer, GM’s newly appointed safety chief, said GM now will recall cars as soon as it sees a safety problem. The company, he said, has added 35 safety investigators to its team as it sifts through records looking for cars that should have been recalled earlier.
GM has now recalled more than 11 million cars and trucks in the U.S. so far this year, close to its annual recall record of 11.8 million set in 2004.
The auto industry also is on track to set a single-year record for U.S. recalls. Companies have recalled 15.4 million vehicles in a little more than four months, according to government records. The old single-year record for recalls is 30.8 million vehicles in 2004. Toyota, Ford, and Chrysler also have announced sizeable recalls this year.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department made Toyota pay a $1.2 billion penalty and admit to concealing problems with unintended acceleration in its cars and trucks.
That fine and the GM investigation—which could bring criminal charges against individuals—have changed the way automakers view recalls.
Here’s a look at the roughly 204,000 vehicles in Canada included in GM’s latest safety recall:
AP Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.