General Motors is recalling nearly 60,000 Saturn Aura midsize cars because the automatic transmission shift levers can show the wrong gear, and the company says it has known about the problem for more than two years.
The problem, caused by failure of the transmission shift cable, has led to 28 crashes and four injuries but no deaths during the past seven years, GM said in a statement issued Tuesday. The Auras can roll away unexpectedly because the driver may think the car is in “Park” when it’s in another gear.
In November of 2011, GM covered the cars with an extended 10-year, 120,000-mile warranty because of the problem. But drivers had to experience trouble with their shifters for the coverage to kick in. At that time, GM thought the extended warranty was sufficient to handle the problem, spokesman Alan Adler said.
GM already is dealing with the delayed recall of 2.6 million small cars due to a deadly ignition-switch problem. Two congressional committees, the Justice Department and NHTSA, are investigating how GM handled that problem, which it knew about for at least a decade before deciding to recall the cars in February.
GM says at least 13 people have died in crashes linked to the switch problem, but trial lawyers have at least 53 wrongful-death lawsuits pending against the company.
GM and Toyota both have acknowledged concealing safety defects and are fixing troubles from the past, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety.