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Auto Industry

GM extends vehicle recall over potentially-deadly ignition fault

Car giant GM has extended a recall of vehicles that are believed to have a problem with their ignition switches. Almost 1.4 million cars are thought to be at risk of a potentially dangerous engine-electrical shutdown.

General Motors on Tuesday said that 1.37 million cars were now included in the recall, with the problem cited as the possible cause of 31 head-on collisions.

Thirteen people died in those accidents and GM has said the recall is needed to correct a problem "that may allow the key to unintentionally move or switch to the accessory or off position."

The problem - which is thought more likely to arise on rough roads - is believed to result in a shutdown of the engine, also switching off most of the electrical components on cars. In the fatalities, the airbag is believed to have failed to deploy.

The failure of power assisted brakes is also said to be a potentially serious problem. The recall extension involved twice as many cars as previously announced in a statement two weeks ago.

The company has come in for criticism, with accusations that it knew about repeated instances of the airbag failing to deploy as early as 2007, without taking effective action to warn customers.

GM North American President Alan Batey said the process of examining the problem was "not as robust as it should have been.

"We will take an unflinching look at what happened and apply lessons learned here to improve going forward," said Batey said in a statement.

The vehicles included in the recall are the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, the Pontiac G5 and the Canadian-sold Pontiac Pursuit, as well as 2003-2007 Saturn Ions and 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs. Pontiac Solstices and Saturn Sky models were also named.

GM is required to notify all affected customers in writing and has said it will fix the ignition for free, but added there may be delays in some areas due to a shortage of parts.

rc/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)