DETROIT - General Motors Co. is recalling nearly 60,000 Saturn Aura midsize cars because the automatic transmission shift levers can show the wrong gear. 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 last seven years, GM said in a statement 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 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. GM thought the extended warranty was sufficient to handle the problem, spokesman Alan Adler said.
GM is already 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 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 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. 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. "GM is now cleaning out its delayed and hidden defects through safety recalls," he said in an e-mail.
All told, GM has recalled about seven million cars and trucks since February.
This latest recall affects certain Auras from the 2007 and 2008 model years, mostly made in the United States, with four-speed automatic transmissions.
The shift cable can fracture, according to GM. If the problem happens while the car is moving, the gear shift could show the wrong gear, and the driver won't be able to shift into Park or remove the ignition key.
GM says it will notify owners and replace the cable and mounting bracket at no cost to owners. GM has not determined yet when repair parts will be available.