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500,000 GM Cars Recalled for Belt Flaw

TIMES STAFF WRITER

General Motors Corp. recalled close to half a million mid-size cars Wednesday, citing a design flaw that could cause the front safety belts to break in a crash.

GM spokesman David Sloan said the company first became aware of the potential problem when a belt broke in a September, 1989, crash test sponsored by the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration.

The case was closed when the agency was unable to find the cause of the mishap. But it was reopened in March, 1990, when a belt broke in a real-life crash, causing minor injuries to the driver. Sloan said the company was not aware of any other incidents in which the same problem occurred.

The company said the safety-belt webbing on the front shoulder belts of 1990 model year sedans could gather at one corner of a guide loop, straining to the point of breaking in a severe crash.

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Sloan said it took a year to issue the recall after the second incident because the company had to design, test and manufacture a replacement part.

GM will mail recall notices Friday to about 459,000 owners of 1990 Chevrolet Lumina, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and Pontiac Grand Prix sedans and some 1990-91 Buick Regal sedans. The cars with the defect were built between February, 1989, and August, 1990.

GM dealers will install brackets on the front shoulder belts to ensure that the belts slip evenly over the guide. The service will be performed at no charge.

Clark Cooper, general manager at Sopp Oldsmobile in Downey, said he was not fazed by the prospect of a large number of owners coming in for the repair.

“Typically when there’s a recall, we see a lot of customers we don’t ordinarily see. So it gives us another shot at them that we don’t usually have,” Cooper said. “They can kick around the showroom floor while they’re waiting, and we can maybe get them interested in buying a new car.”


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