GM Ignition Switch Recall Linked to 303 Deaths
In February and March of 2014, General Motors recalled 2.6 million vehicles with defective ignition switches which can cause the vehicles to lose power without warning, disabling power steering, brakes, and airbags. In June of 2014, the company recalled an additional 9.9 million vehicles for a similar issue.
These ignition defects have been linked to numerous accidents and multiple fatalities.
General Motors is accused of delaying the recall after the ignition problem was initially detected in 2001. Had the company reported the defect to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when it was first discovered, multiple deaths could have been prevented.
Details of the GM Ignition Switch Recall
- Models affected by the recall include:
- 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt
- 2007-2010 Pontiac G5
- 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
- 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHR
- 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice
- 2007-2010 Saturn Sky
- 2005-2009 Buick Lacrosse
- 2000-2014 Chevrolet Impala
- 2000-2005 Cadillac Deville
- 2004-2011 Cadillac DTS
- 2006-2011 Buick Lucerne
- 2004-2005 Buick Regal LS & GS
- 2000-2008 Chevy Monte Carlo
- 1997-2005 Chevy Malibu
- 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrique
- 1999-2004 Oldsmobile Alero
- 2004-2008 Pontiac Grand Prix
- 2011-2012 Chevrolet Silverado HD
- 2011-2012 Chevrolet Silverado LD
- 2011-2012 Chevrolet Suburban
- 2011-2012 Chevrolet Tahoe
- 2011-2012 Chevrolet Avalanche
- 2011-2012 GMC Sierra LD
- 2011-2012 GMC Sierra HD
- 2011-2012 GMC Yukon
- 2011-2012 GMC Yukon XL
- 2011-2012 Cadillac Escalade
- During the initial ignition recall, NHTSA has reported something as simple as vibrations from rough roads or a heavy key ring can result in the ignition switch moving out of the “run” position, cutting off the engine and all electrical power.
- The regulatory agency also verified that the defect can prevent airbags from deploying in the event of a collision.
- GM reports that at least 13 people have been killed in auto accidents linked to the vehicles recalled in February and March.
- A study conducted by the Center for Auto Safety, a watchdog group, links the recalled vehicles to 303 deaths.
- In the June recalls, GM cited additional concerns including faulty ignition keys, key fobs, and “unintentional ignition key rotation.”
- Along with the June recalls, GM announced that they were investigating three deaths and eight injuries that may be linked to the newly recalled vehicles.
GM Delayed the Recalls Despite Knowing of Risks
- GM allegedly became aware of the defect in 2001 after a report was filed in connection to a Saturn Ion before mass production initiated.
- In 2004, a GM engineer experienced the problem during the test-drive of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt.
- In 2005, engineers were able to conclude that the vehicles’ ignition switches were prone to failure.
- U.S. law requires that all safety defects be reported to the NHTSA within five days of discovery – failure to do so carries a fine of up to $35 million.
- GM has attempted to fix the problem without issuing a recall, instead sending out “Technical Service Bulletins” instructing dealers to fix the problems – such bulletins are sent when a problem is not deemed a safety issue.
Senate Launches Investigation of Recall Delays
GM is being investigated by a number of federal and state agencies for their decade-long failure to address safety problems in the recalled vehicles. The U.S. Senate called GM CEO Mary Barra to testify about the company’s role in delaying the recall. Barra’s written testimony was released prior to the hearings.
Also in anticipation of the hearings, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to GM, criticizing the company’s failure to admit they approved ignition switches that did not meet their own specifications.
David Friedman, head of NHTSA, was also called to testify and explain why the agency opened and closed investigations into the faulty ignition switches in 2007 and 2010 without issuing any recalls. Friedman’s written testimony was also released in anticipation of the hearing.
The Justice Department has also begun a criminal investigation into the matter.