General Motors (GM) has recalled nearly 780,000 midsize SUVs worldwide because of a problem with the vehicles’ power liftgates, which can suddenly fall and strike people. The recall covers 2007-2010 Saturn Outlook, 2007-2012 GMC Acadia, 2009-2012 Chevrolet Traverse and 2008-2012 Buick Enclave models that are equipped with the power liftgate option. Approximately 690,000 of the affected vehicles are in the U.S., the automaker said in a statement. The power liftgate, which is the upward-swinging rear door, has gas struts that hold it up when opened, but the struts can prematurely wear out and cause the open liftgate to unexpectedly fall, according to the statement. “GM is aware of 56 reported injuries but no crashes or fatalities related to this condition,” the statement said.
The SUVs are equipped with a system that is supposed to return the liftgate to the closed position in a slow and controlled manner, according to the statement. The affected vehicles, however, have a problem in their prop rod recovery system software, causing it to potentially be unable to detect or stop a liftgate from falling too quickly after the liftgate is open if the gas struts have worn out, the statement said. “If this condition occurs, it may introduce the opportunity for injury due to contact of the liftgate door with a person’s head/body,” GM said in a June 25 letter to dealers.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) acknowledged the recall in a letter, saying it had first been notified of the issue on June 24. In a safety recall report submitted to the agency, GM said it first investigated an incident of power liftgate failure in September 2010 after a report from a company vehicle driver. With low rates of incidents in the field, the automaker closed the investigation that month but continued to monitor field reports. The automaker’s emerging issues group in November investigated two so-called Speak Up For Safety cases involving power liftgates, and GM opened a formal investigation on March 17, the report said. The company reviewed field data relating to the condition, instigated a read-across of vehicles with the power liftgate systems and conducted tests between April and June, and decided to conduct a safety recall on June 17, according to the report.
Under the recall, dealers will reflash the power liftgate actuator motor with a new software calibration, and GM will reimburse drivers for repairs. The calibration is designed to mitigate the liftgate’s behavior when gas struts are weakened, the report said.
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