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General Motors Knew about Problems with Midsize Cars for a Decade

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Tina Robinson3 years ago

Documents filed by General Motors on Friday with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tell a familiar tale. According to the Wall Street Journal, the documents show that GM knew about problems with vehicles that were recalled in June for more than a decade. At least three deaths have been attributed to the defective vehicles by GM.

Problems Surfaced with the Grand Prix in 2003

On June 30, 2014, GM recalled the following vehicles:

  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Impala
  • 2000-2005 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
  • 1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu
  • 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero
  • 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue
  • 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am
  • 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix

Collectively, the recall affects about 7.6 million vehicles in the U.S. Now, the automaker has informed NHTSA that problems with these vehicles first showed up in 2003.

According to the documents filed:

  • In 2003, a GM brand quality manager was sent to investigate an owner’s complaints that his Grand Prix would stall intermittently. The manager observed that the owner had a key ring with about 50 keys as well as a pair of brass knuckles. Sure enough, the manager was able to replicate the engine stalling by driving over a speed bump at 30-35 mph.
  • On May 22, 2003, a voice mail alert was sent to dealers informing them to look out for key rings with extra weight.
  • On July 24, 2003, GM redesigned the ignition switch used in Chevy Malibus, Pontiac Grand Ams, and Oldsmobile Aleros to increase the amount of torque required to turn the ignition switch. GM issued a new part number for the switches.
  • In March 2004, GM also made a change to the detent plunger in the Pontiac Grand Prix. However, the part number was never changed.

Mounting Problems for GM

GM has already been fined $35 million by NHTSA for its delay of the Cobalt and Ion recall that was announced in February. The automaker could be fined again if the agency determines this recall was also delayed. Under current law, automakers have five days to inform NHTSA once it has discovered a safety defect.

Friday’s announcement comes on the heels of CEO Mary Barra’s second appearance before a Senate subcommittee to testify about the ignition recall. Lawmakers urged Barra to expand the GM settlement fund that was created to compensate ignition recall victims to cover the June recall as well. Barra refused to take the senators’ suggestion, insisting that there was a difference between the problems in the vehicles.

Thomas J. Henry Fights for GM Recall Victims

Thomas J. Henry is representing more than 1,000 GM recall victims across the United States and has been investigating injuries and deaths linked to the recall since day one. The firm launched a nationwide media investigation into the recall in April, which brought forth thousands of affected individuals who had information critical to the investigation – information that the firm has handed over to federal agencies also investigating GM’s sluggish response the recall. As more and more individuals have flocked to Thomas J. Henry for representation, the firm has continued to push GM for a victim settlement fund. The firm has had several talks with GM’s victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg regarding appropriate victim compensation for the thousands affected by a fatal design flaw in ignition switches which left numerous dead and countless others seriously injured. 


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