GM Recalls 243,000-Plus Crossovers for Safety-Belt Issue

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DETROIT — General Motors recalled more than 243,000 CUVs on Tuesday for a possible second-row safety buckle issue.

The automaker is checking Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Arcadia and Saturn Outlook vehicles from model years 2009 and 2010 to see if there is any damage to the second-row safety belts. GM noted that this damage "in rare cases" can lead passengers to mistakenly believe the belt is fastened

Most of the affected models are here in the U.S.; however there are several thousand affected vehicles that have been sent abroad to Canada, Mexico, China and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, a few of these affected units have been exported to other countries, as well.

The automaker said it found the issue during warranty returns. GM stressed that it has no knowledge of any cases where the second-row safety belts have not worked in a crash.

"Some vehicles may have a condition where the second-row seat side trim shield restricts the upward rotation of the seat belt buckle when the seat back is returned to a seating position after being folded flat," officials explained.

"If the buckle makes contact with the seat frame, the buckle may receive cosmetic damage as the seat back is being returned to its upright position," they added. "When this occurs, the customer may notice that additional effort is required to return the seat to a seating position."

However, if the occupant applies enough pressure in doing so, it could shove the buckle cover down the strap. This would expose the red release button and partially push it down, officials noted.

If depressed, the seat belt release button may not move as far as it is supposed to, they continued. Occupants might not be able to latch or unlatch the buckle, which officials said "may appear to be jammed."

They also noted that, "In rare instances, the buckle may appear to latch when the latch mechanism is not fully engaged."

"Because of the potential for a false-latch condition, we want customers to return their vehicles to have the recall repair performed as soon as possible," stated Jeff Boyer, GM executive director of safety.

GM is sending letters to owners about scheduling time with a dealership service department. Customers can expect these letters later this month, and will have their second-row belts inspected and repaired for free.

Industry Reacts

This particular recall is not cause for shoppers to steer clear of these CUVs, but since the problem seems to be user-related, owners of these units should be cautious and get their vehicles checked, Kelley Blue Book executive market analyst James Bell said. 

This is particularly important for families whose loved ones regularly sit in the second row, Bell added

He went on to note that this "small black eye" for GM magnifies the importance of testing for this seatbelt issue.

"GM's seatbelt recall is a small black eye on their gold-star Lambda series of crossover SUVs," Bell shared. "This situation highlights the intense scrutiny that vehicles must go through to be introduced into the U.S. market, and yet how small details can still slip through the cracks. 

"In this case, the second-row seatbelt could be damaged when the seats are returned to their upright position — a very rare occurrence, but one that all manufacturers of similar vehicles must unfortunately test and accommodate," he added.

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