GM recalls 4M vehicles for air bag defect linked to 1 death

General Motors recalled more than 4 million vehicles, most of them in the U.S., to fix an air bag software defect that has been linked to one death.

The vehicles involved in the recall are all from the 2014-2017 model years and include models from Buick, Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac.

The company is recalling 4.28 million vehicles worldwide, of which 3.6 million are in the U.S.

"That is a big number and the concern is, we don't know at this point in time, is it going to be expanded? Right now, the supply and demand for air bags, for the components, software and stuff like that there, if this thing grows really big," said Aaron Nelson, the owner of Aaron's Auto Care, Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida. 

The company said Friday that in rare cases, the car's sensing and diagnostic module -- a tiny computer that senses what the vehicle is doing and controls air bag deployment -- can go into test mode. If that happens, the front air bags won't inflate in a crash and the seat belts may not work either.

GM says the defect is linked to at least one death and three injuries.

The company learned of the problem in May when a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado crashed and its air bags didn't deploy. GM notified Delphi Corp., the supplier that made the module. The two companies tested the modules and decided to recall the vehicles last week. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the recall Friday.

General Motors Co. will notify customers and update the software for free. GM says dealers already have access to the software update so they should be able to repair the vehicles quickly.

Nelson himself drives a Chevy Silverado, one of the many vehicles being recalled because of the software glitch.

"Basically, what they're talking about is you have the hard components, whether it's the air bags or impact sensors. And what happens is when you have an accident, the impact sensor senses the accident. It sends a signal to the module, air bag module or what have you, and that's supposed to deploy the different air bags, depending on the impact," Nelson said.

Nelson said the rapid growth in technology for vehicles can make it hard to keep up and also create room for error when it comes to manufacturing. 

"On the average, just in general, about once a month our whole crew goes in for continued education on automobiles. We're talking about everything, from braking to air conditioning, you name it. It's to the point now where you've go to do that because if you don't, you will be left behind because they are changing so rapidly," Nelson said. 

The recall involves 3.6 million vehicles. They are:

  • 2014-2016 Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet SS, Chevrolet Spark EV
  • 2014-2017 Buick Encore, GMC Sierra 1500, Chevrolet Corvette, Chevrolet Trax, Chevrolet Caprice police car and Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • 2015-2017 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL, GMC Sierra HD, Cadillac Escalade and Cadillac Escalade ESV.

To view a full list of all vehicle recalls, click here.