General Motors Corp. halted production and announced an unprecedented URGENT recall of all 6000 already delivered new 2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazers, GMC Envoys and Oldsmobile Bravadas midsize sport-utility vehicles, telling owners to not drive them at all, and wait for the dealers to tow them to the dealership to fix a dangerous steering problem. GM said that while such a severe recall is rare, it is not unprecedented – but was unable to name a similar situation. GM said there have been no reported accidents or injuries as a result of the problem which involves a lower control arm. GM said the defective parts which were not made to specifications by a supplier -- may break at the point where the control arm connects with the steering knuckle, the joint that allows the front wheels to pivot.

GM spokesman Mike Morrissey. Said "There is a risk of a significant loss of control, and the safest course of action is to literally get out of the vehicle." He went on to say dealers were being instructed to bring a loaner car with them when they go to an owner's home to tow the SUV.

Clarence Ditlow, director for the Center for Auto Safety, called the problem with the SUVs "a very serious safety defect" and said, "It's the worst possible launch for a new vehicle." Ditlow said the center and GM are in complete agreement that the problem is potentially so serious that owners should park their vehicles. GM said it has produced 30,000 of the vehicles but only 6,000 have been delivered to customers -- 4,800 in the United States and the rest in Canada and Mexico.

Chevrolet, GMC and Oldsmobile dealers were notified of the problem yesterday afternoon and told not to sell the vehicles, or even allow customers to test-drive them. The SUVs have only been on the market since mid-March. Dealers discovered the defect as they were conducting pre-delivery inspections. In one case, Morrissey said, the part broke after a dealership employee started driving it away from the truck that delivered it. Morrissey said he was unable to identify the dealerships where the defect was discovered or where they were located. GM would not identify the supplier.

Officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said GM immediately notified the agency of its actions, as it was required to do by federal law. "This is something they discovered and they did something about it as they are supposed to do," the agency spokesman said.

In addition to recalling the new SUVs already on the road, GM said it was shutting down the plant in Moraine, Ohio, where the vehicles were made, until April 16 to fix the problem. "We're undertaking a very extensive investigation," Morrissey said.

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