2006 Chevrolet HHR

General Motors recalled 1.5 million vehicles, including the 2006 Chevrolet HHR, to fix a power steering problem. (J. Emilio Flores, Getty Images / January 5, 2005)

As General Motors Co. heads into key congressional hearings Tuesday over a safety defect linked to 13 deaths, the automaker announced it would recall an additional 1.5 million vehicles globally and take a $750-million charge against its first-quarter earnings.

GM told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday that it would recall more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States that may experience a sudden loss of electric power steering assist. It will recall 200,000 outside the U.S.

The charge will set aside money to pay for this latest recall and a slew of similar auctions over the last two months.

The automaker said it knows of some crashes and injuries “that could be related to the loss of power steering on these vehicles” but has not been told of any deaths.  It cautioned that it continues to review records and analyze data and that information could change.

The Chevrolet models in the recall are the Malibu from the 2004 and 2005 model years and some from 2006, 2008 and 2009, the Malibu Maxx from the 2004 and 2005 model years and some from 2006, the HHR from the 2009 and 2010 model years and some 2010 Cobalts.

The Saturn models in the recall are the Aura from the 2008 and 2009 model years and the Ion from the 2004 through 2007 model years.  The recall also includes the Pontiac G6 from the 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009 model years. 

Depending on the vehicle, GM will replace the power steering motor, the steering column, the power steering motor control unit or a combination of the steering column and the power steering motor control unit.

Additionally, GM said that 309,160 non-turbocharged Chevrolet HHRs from the 2006-2008 model years (and several hundred 2009 models) and 96,324 Saturn Ions from the 2003 model year that are not subject to these recalls will be given lifetime warranties for replacement of the electronic power steering motor. 

“With these safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president, GM Global Vehicle Safety. “We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough.”

Some of these models are also involved in a recall of 2.6 million vehicles over the last two months to fix a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 deaths.

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra heads to Capital Hill on Tuesday to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel investigating why the automaker delayed recalling millions of vehicles equipped with the faulty ignition switch.

“Clearly GM is going to be under a lot of pressure from the hearing for the next few days and from the investigations,” said Alan Baum, market analyst for Baum and Associates in West Bloomfield, Mich.  “They want to get all the bad news out at once.”

On Friday, GM said it would recall almost 700,000 vehicles, including its large pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles and its small Cruze sedans for a variety of problems.

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