GM Fined Over Failure to Respond to NHTSA on Ignition Switch Recall

General Motors is being fined $7,000 per day for its continuing failure to answer questions about the recent ignition switch recall, which has affected 2.4 million vehicles in the U.S.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) informed the automaker this week that it will be fined daily until it fully answers a list of 107 questions about the recall. The answers were due by April 3, but GM has reportedly answered only 65% of the questions. The company has already accrued $28,000 in fines.

GM admits that it has not fully answered regulators’ questions, but indicates that it is working hard to do so. The auto maker indicates that it has turned over more than 200,000 pages of documents and had already agreed to a rolling document production schedule that extended beyond April 3 before the deadline had passed.

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GM Ignition Recall Lawsuits

In 2014, GM Recalled 2.6M Vehicles Due to Risk of Airbag Failure from Defective Ignition Switches.

NHTSA is threatening GM with action from the U.S. Department of Justice if it does not fully respond to the questions, claiming that there is no reason the company should not have answered them all, as they are basic questions which are not technical in nature.

At issue is a recall for GM vehicles issued in February, due to defective ignitions that may cause the vehicle to turn off if heavy keys are used, or the ignition is jarred, such as during an auto accident. When this happens, the airbags are deactivated, meaning they will not deploy as they should during a crash. GM has acknowledged that at least 13 deaths may be attributed to the problem, but some reports suggest that more than 300 people have died in accidents involving the recalled vehicles where the airbags failed.

GM has said that the delays are due in part to an internal investigation by an independent attorney, Anton Valukas. Company officials say they want to wait until that investigation is resolved before answering some of the NHTSA questions. However, the agency says the company’s legal obligations to answer to regulators are paramount and separate from whatever internal probes it undertakes.

GM Recalls

GM faces mounting criticism, lawsuits and government investigations in the wake of the recalls, raising serious questions about how the auto maker failed to act on known information that the vehicles had a serious safety defect.

The initial recall was limited to about 778,000 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5s. However, the recall was later expanded to include some Saturn Ion and other vehicles. The recall was expanded again last week, raising the worldwide total to 2.59 million GM vehicles recalled due to ignition switch concerns.

Amid the increased scrutiny, GM has also announced several other recalls that are unrelated to the ignition switches, including potential engine fire risks, air bag problems, steering defects and failure to meet crash standards.

GM CEO Mary Barra went before congress twice last week to explain the company’s actions, testifying that she did not know why the recalls were not announced earlier, but promised to provide lawmakers with answers in the near future.

A congressional investigation also revealed that officials inside the NHTSA called for investigations into the problem twice since 2007, but were twice told there was no need by other officials in the agency.

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