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GM Recalls More Than 700,000 Vehicles Years After Finding Ignition Switch Defect

The CBS Evening News broadcast that General Motors recently announced that it is recalling over 700,000 vehicles due to a problem with the ignition switch. The automaker has said that six people have been killed in accidents. However, the report notes that the automaker’s recall is coming a decade “after the defect was first discovered and seven years after people began to die.” Joan Claybrook, the former head of the NHTSA, is shown saying that GM has committed an “immoral act” by covering up this defect, and not telling people, and the “result was inevitable, that people were going to die and be injured and that to me is unconscionable.”CBS News also reported on the story online.

For its part, the New York Times reports that in 2006, GM sent dealers “a technical service bulletin warning” that due to “an ignition problem, a heavy key chain hanging from the ignition could turn off the engine on six models.” However, only two of those models were included in last week’s recall “for the problem that the automaker now says could keep air bags from deploying in a crash.” The Times notes that in the US, the “models covered by the bulletin but not subject to the recall were the 2006-7 Chevrolet HHR, the 2006-7 Pontiac Solstice, the 2003-7 Saturn Ion and the 2007 Saturn Sky.”

GM, NHTSA under fire for delayed ignition switch recall.

The CBS Evening News reported that General Motors has linked seven additional deaths to faulty ignition switches and has doubled its related recall. GM now says that the recall is tied to 31 crashes and 13 fatalities. Meanwhile, a service bulletin shows that GM has known about the issue for nearly a decade. CBS notes that GM is now facing a potential fine and even criminal penalties.

The AP reports that GM has now recalled 1.6 million small cars after “adding 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts, Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars” to the recall. GM explains that a heavy key ring or heavy jarring can cause the ignition switch to shut off the engine and electrical power, knowing out power brakes, power steering, and disabling the air bags. The company know of the issue as early as 2005 and knew of at least one fatal crash in 2007. GM issues service bulletins on the issue in 2005 and 2007. GM also approved an engineer’s plan to redesign the ignition switch in 2005 but the change was “later canceled.” According to Clarence Ditlow. executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, “This is a case where both GM and NHTSA should be held accountable for doing a recall no later than the spring of 2007.”

The New York Times notes that consumer advocates say GM has not done enough and that NHTSA should investigate. GM spokesman Alan Adler said that the decision to expand the recall didn’t result form an NHTSA inquiry. Separately , the New York Times reports that Alan Batey, president of GM North America, said Tuesday that the automaker’s investigation “was not as robust as it should have been.” The Times also notes that some GM engineers were not aware of a fatal 2005 crash until NHTSA officials brought it to their attention in 2007, even though GM’s legal staff has opened a file on the crash. Former NHTSA Administration Joan Claybrook said, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration learned of the problem in 2007, but ignored its duty to protect the public. General Motors should be criminally prosecuted for covering up this safety defect, and N.H.T.S.A. should replace the staff that failed to do its job.”

USA Today notes that it “reported Monday that the additional four models had been identified by GM as early as 2005 in a dealer alert as having the same potential switch problem.”

The Los Angeles Times also says that “in a rare public apology, General Motors acknowledged Tuesday that it may have reacted too slowly to a safety issue linked to 13 deaths.”

WDIV-TV Detroit notes that attorney Lance Cooper has petitioned NHTSA “to fine GM for not acting quickly enough once it knew of the problem.”

GM asks NHTSA to declare Silverado, Sierra glitch “inconsequential.” In continuing coverage, the Automotive News reports that “General Motors is seeking federal regulators’ permission to not recall more than 200,000 new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups because of an electronic defect that can be triggered by using the steering wheel controls.” GM said that “when a driver uses the steering wheel controls to browse and select songs to play from an external device, such as an MP3 player that is plugged into a USB port, the instrument cluster may reset.” However, “in a petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Oct. 31, GM said it should be exempt from the agency’s notification and remedy requirements because the problem was inconsequential to vehicle safety.”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

About This Blog

The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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