General Motors Corp., which is trying to convince potential car buyers that it has resolved concerns about quality, said Thursday it would replace tailgate support cables on 3.7 million U.S. pickups in the company's biggest recall in 23 years.
The models include Chevrolet Silverados sold for model years 2000 to 2004 and GMC Sierras built between October 1999 and October 2003. The Silverado is GM's best-selling vehicle. Some Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade sport utility vehicles also are being recalled.
GM said the cables may corrode and break, allowing the tailgate to drop below the horizontal position. The company said there had been reports of 134 minor injuries from the problem.
The recall comes as studies show GM has succeeded in boosting auto quality relative to competitors such as Toyota Motor Corp. GM was the only U.S. automaker to perform above the industry average in a J.D. Power & Associates survey last year of 55,000 owners of 2000 model-year cars and trucks.
The recall is the fourth-largest for GM. A 1981 recall of vehicles for axle problems affected 5.8 million vehicles.
"I think recalls now demonstrate a level of diligence brought about by a fear of lawsuits more than actual, real-life quality problems," Rebecca Lindland, a forecaster for Lexington, Mass.-based Global Insight Inc.
Congress in 2000 pressed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to boost its vigilance after the failure of Bridgestone Corp.'s Firestone tires were linked to 271 road deaths.
"The logic has changed since Firestone," Lindland said. "The last thing they want in the media is evidence they knew about something and didn't do anything."
GM is emphasizing quality to win back buyers lost to foreign rivals. The market share of General Motors' U.S. brands fell 0.4 percentage point to 28% in 2003.
GM shares fell 15 cents to $46.34 on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.