NHTSA Launches Inquiry Into Delayed GM Ignition Recall

Federal investigators say they are looking into whether General Motors (GM) may have waited too long to announce a massive recall of defective ignition switches, which may turn the car off suddenly and prevent the air bags from deploying in an accident.  

On March 4, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was launching a timeliness query into this year’s recall of GM vehicles due to faulty ignition switches. The investigation comes after GM suggested it had dropped the ball for years on investigating and responding to the problem.

The Special Order (PDF) directed to GM gives the company until April 3 to respond to a laundry list of requests for information about the switches, the cars they were installed in, and the company’s handling of the situation. If the company fails to respond in a timely manner, it could face up to $35 million in penalties.

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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.

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At issue is a GM recall announced last month that affects 1.3 million vehicles sold in the U.S., including 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion vehicles, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Sky vehicles.

The recall was linked to ignition switches that could turn the vehicles off during use due to a problem with the torque. This can happen if the driver is using a heavy set of keys or upon impact from an auto accident. As many as 13 people may have died due to the defective ignitions, GM has admitted. But complaints and engineering concerns about the ignitions appear to date back as far as 2004, when the first 2005 vehicles went into circulation.

GM North America President Alan Batey apologized to consumers, saying that the chronology shows the company knew about the problem for years but that the process to investigate and respond was “not as robust as it should have been.”

The NHTSA wants to know whether any laws were broken by the delay to address the problem.

“We are a data-driven organization, and we will take whatever action is appropriate based on where our findings lead us,” an announcement of the NHTSA investigation states.

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