General Motors has just doubled the number of cars it recalled in the US for faulty ignition switchesfrom about 619,000 to 1.4 million vehicles in the US. The manufacturer is also is now linking 13 car accident fatalities, rather than 6, to the auto parts defect. All of the people who died were seated in the front seat of the cars. Meantime, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened up an investigation to figure out whether the automaker satisfied the requirements and legal processes for reporting recalls.
Earlier this month GM said it was recalling just its Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s (2005 to 2007 models). Now, it has added to the recall 842,000 Pontiac Solstices, Chevrolet HHR SUVs, and Saturn Sky cars (2006-2007 models), as well as Saturn Ion compacts (2003- 2007 models).
The automaker says the ignition switch can go from “run” position to shutting down the electrical power and engine if rough roads are too jarring or because a key ring was too heavy. Should the vehicles lose power, not only does deceleration happen, but this could cause the power steering, power brakes, or air bags to become disabled, leaving the vehicle occupants defenseless during the impact of a crash.
The automaker reportedly knew about the safety problem in 2004. By 2007, it is said to have been aware of at least one potentially related deadly collision and 10 front-end collisions involving Cobalts in which the air bags didn’t deploy. ABC News says that at this time, it not known for sure whether the ignition switches were the cause of the related collisions, including 31 front-end crashes.
GM put out service bulletins in 2005 and the following year telling dealers that the safety issue could be remedied with a key insert (of which, per company records, only 447 were completed) and a warning to customers to not weigh down their key chains. The automaker reportedly thought the service bulletin was enough because the brakes and steering of the vehicles were operable even when their engines lost power. Also, plans to redesign the ignition switch in 2005 were reportedly scratched.
Automakers have to notify the agency of any safety issue within five days of finding out about it. If NHTSA finds that GM did not follow proper recall and defect reporting regulations, the manufacturer could face a $35 million fine.
At The Gilbert Law Group®, our auto defects lawyers represent the families of victims who sustained catastrophic injuries in a car crash that were caused by a malfunctioning vehicle or one of its faulty parts. Please contact our auto products liability law firm today. One of our faulty ignition switch lawyers would be happy to help you explore your legal options.