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Center for Auto Safety Helped Expose the GM Recall

Tina Robinson3 years ago

General Motors is currently the subject of several federal investigations and lawsuits as part of the fallout from February’s 1.6 million vehicle recall. A report on the Fiscal Times says that one watchdog group, the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), is at the heart of exposing the GM recall scandal.

The Center for Auto Safety Investigation

CAS executive director Clarence Ditlow says the group first took notice of a potential scandal after the initial recall of 780,000 vehicles was announced by GM on Feb. 13. Ditlow explained that the average recall has less than one death linked to it. Initial disclosures from GM linked the ignition switches to six deaths. When GM added an additional 842,000 vehicles to the recall two weeks later, the death count rose to 12.

GM has admitted that it was aware of problems with the ignition switches as far back as 2001. The defective ignition switches contain a design flaw which makes it easy for the key to be switched into the “accessory” or “off” position while drivers are operating the vehicle. The resulting loss of engine power, power steering and airbags has catastrophic potential.

An analysis conducted by the Friedman Research Corporation at the behest of the CAS examined data in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Using raw data, Friedman uncovered 303 deaths due to airbags failing to deploy in two of the recalled GM vehicles: the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion.

Inconclusive Results from the NHTSA

“It’s just another example of where NHTSA fell down on the job. This recall could have and should have been done no later than 2007 if the agency had ordered it.” – Clarence Ditlow, as reported by the Fiscal Times

Records show that the NHTSA was aware of ignition and airbag issues with GM vehicles as early as 2007. The NHTSA has said that its own investigations into crashes involving the Cobalt produced inconclusive results. As a consequence, no formal investigation was launched by the organization.

On the Heels of a $1.2 Billion Toyota Settlement

All of this comes as the Justice Department announced on Wednesday a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota for its own 10-million-vehicle recall in 2009. It is the largest penalty of its kind ever to be imposed on an automaker in the U.S and concludes a four-year criminal probe.

Two congressional committees, the Justice Department and federal investigators have all launched probes into the GM recall. If GM is found liable, the automaker could be forced to pay billions of dollars in penalties and lawsuits. 

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