General Motors Accused of Waiting Years to Issue Recall Over Fatal Ignition Switch Defect

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been asked to make General Motors explain why it is only now recalling 619,122 Chevrolet Cobalt (2005 – 2007) and Pontiac G5 (2007) cars in the US to replace possibly faulty ignition switches that have been linked to six fatalities and 22 vehicle crashes. According to documents in Melton v. General Motors et. al., which is an already settled auto products liability case against GM, the automaker was aware as far back as 2004 about the possible ignition defect, which is one year before the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt even entered the marketplace. Under federal safety rules, a car manufacturer needs to tell NHTSA of any auto safety problem within five days of discovery.

In that previous Georgia auto defect lawsuit, the estate of Brooke Melton sought damages for her wrongful death. On her 29th birthday, Melton lost control of her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, which was struck by another vehicle, and ended up in a creek. Her family believes that a faulty ignition switch caused the fatal crash. According to “black box” data from the collision, the vehicle’s ignition switch was in “accessory” mode instead of “run” when the accident happened.

In 2005, GM did put out a service bulletin to dealers saying that the possible ignition problem can happen if the driver has a heavy or large key chain, which could cause the ignition to inadvertently shut off. Six models were mentioned in that notice.

Now, with its recall, GM is once more offering the heavy key ring/key chain explainer. It notes that if the engine is turned off, the majority of the vehicles’ electrical components, including power steering, airbags, and power-assisted brakes, could stop working. However, only two of the models mentioned in the earlier bulletin are part of this recall. Not named are the Chevrolet HHR (2006-2007 models), the Pontiac Solstice (2006-2007 models), the Saturn Ion (2003-2007 models) and the Saturn Key (207 model).

A recall that included all six models would have increased the number of autos affected in the US by more than double. The New York Times reports that according to Experian Automotive, there are about 643,000 of the autos not included in the recall that are still registered.

GM says that dealers will replace the ignition switches. Until then, drivers should use the key by itself. Both vehicles involved in the recall were discontinued years ago. While the automaker acknowledged the six fatalities, it pointed out that some of the collisions linked to ignition switch defects also involved drunk driving, speeding, and failure to use a seatbelt.

Our auto defects lawyers represents the families of those that were injured and killed in car crashes caused by safety issues and other vehicle defects. Please contact The Gilbert Law Group®. We can help you determine whether you have grounds for an auto defects lawsuit.


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