General Motors Co on Monday recalled 3.36 million North American cars with ignition switches that can be jarred out of the "run" position, potentially affecting power steering, power brakes and air bags.
The switch issue is similar to the defect linked to at least 13 deaths in an earlier, 2.6-million vehicle recall of Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars.
GM engineers first noted that problem more than a decade ago, and GM's slow response to the switch issue triggered investigations within the company and by Congress and federal agencies.
GM has issued 44 recalls this year totaling about 20 million vehicles, which is more than total annual US vehicle sales. Of the recalls this year, more than 6 million of the vehicles were recalled for ignition switch-related issues.
On Friday, GM recalled more than half a million Chevrolet Camaro sports cars for ignition switch issues, saying a bump of the knee could turn off the engine.
GM said it would replace or rework the ignition keys on the cars in the latest recall, and it raised a recall-related charge for the second quarter to $700 million from $400 million. That takes total recall-related charges this year to $2 billion.
GM said it was aware of eight crashes and six injuries related to the latest recall.
The No. 1 US auto maker said its fix for the cars recalled on Monday would prevent extra weight from pulling the key to one side.
"The use of a key with a hole, rather than a slotted key, addresses the concern of unintended key rotation due to a jarring road event, such as striking a pothole or crossing railroad tracks," it said.
The latest recall includes Buick Lacrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac Deville and several other models, though only the Impala is currently in production. The cars cover model years ranging between 2000 and 2014. It comes two days before GM Chief Executive Mary Barra is due to return to Congress to testify about the earlier Cobalt recall.
Barra will be joined by Anton Valukas, chairman of GM's outside law firm Jenner & Block, who conducted a months-long investigation that detailed deep flaws in GM's internal decision-making process.
The so-called Valukas report, made public last week, triggered the departures of 15 GM employees, including several high-ranking executives in the legal, engineering and public policy groups.
"Mr. Valukas' exhaustive report revealed disturbing truths about GM's systemic and cultural failures that allowed this problem to go undiagnosed for over a decade, but many questions remain unanswered about the recalls and resulting changes within the company," Representatives Fred Upton and Tim Murphy, two leaders of the hearings, said in a statement last week.
GM said Barra wants to update Congress on the actions the company has taken in response to the switch recall crisis, including fixing the failures outlined in the company's internal report, announcing plans to establish a victims' compensation fund and setting up a structure at the company to ensure vehicle safety.
(Editing by Bernard Orr)