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Early Warning Signs Were There for GM

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Tina Robinson4 years ago

New information about last month’s 1.6 million-car recall by GM continues to surface as several investigations are underway.

According to a report by Autonews, many early warning signs were there for GM, including engineers’ reports and customer complaints.

Timeline of the Ignition Switch Issues

  • In 2004, a report from GM engineers noted a “basic design flaw” in the ignition switch in Saturn Ions. The report noted that the switch was susceptible to being bumped out of position.
  • A 2005 service bulletin told dealerships to advise owners to remove unessential items from the key chain.
  • Proposed solutions to the ignition switch defect after the Cobalt was on sale were rejected due to “lead time required, cost and effectiveness of the solutions.”
  • The ignition switch was quietly redesigned in 2006 to be more difficult to jostle out of position. Many at GM were unaware of the redesign until October 2013.
  • In 2009, a new key was implemented that reduced the amount of downward force that could be applied to the key.
  • On Feb. 13 this year, GM announced an initial recall. That recall was later expanded on Feb. 25 to include a total of 1.6 million vehicles worldwide.

GM’s Lack of Communication

One of the reasons that all these warning signs went undetected was a lack of communication throughout GM.

Between 2005 and 2009, nearly a third of GM’s workforce was eliminated which led to gaps in information. Even CEO Mary Barra has said she did not know of the ignition switch issue until shortly before the recall.

In 2006 when the ignition switch was redesigned, the part number remained the same, keeping many at GM in the dark. For years, GM was unable to figure out why reports of airbag non-deployment only came from model years 2007 and earlier.

GM kept customers out of the loop as well. When a small insert for the key was designed in 2005 to help reduce the possibility of jostling, dealerships were given the insert and told through a service bulletin to only provide them to customers who complained.

Overall, records show that fewer than 500 inserts were given out. 

Currently, GM has confirmed that 13 deaths and 33 frontal collision have been lined to the defective ignitioin switches.


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