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Valukas Report on GM Ignition Recall Expected This Week

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Tina Robinson3 years ago

A major part of investigation into the ignition switch recall should wrap up this week as General Motors is expected to release the findings of a probe conducted by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas this week. Valukas was hired by GM to conduct an internal probe to find answers as to what happened over the span of a decade that prevented the automaker from recalling millions of cars with defective ignition switches.

Answers Sought from Valukas’ Investigation

According to the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers, safety regulators, and others involved with the recall hope that the report from Valukas will provide answers as to who was responsible for decisions and why the cars weren’t recalled until this year. When GM CEO Mary Barra testified before two congressional panels in April, she deferred to the Valukas’ investigation and said the company would wait for it to be completed.

Since February, GM has recalled about 2.6 million older compact cars after nearly a decade of problems with the ignition switches. A design flaw allowed the switches to be jostled out of the “run” position creating problems such as engine stalls, steering defects, brake failure, and airbag failure. GM has acknowledged 13 deaths and 47 crashes linked to the defect, but safety regulators say they expect the final death count to be higher.

Some of the questions the Valukas report will hopefully answer include:

  • Why didn’t GM fix the ignition switch when problems first surfaced in 2001?
  • Why was there no recall in 2006 when the switch was quietly redesigned? Why did the documentation of that redesign go missing for years?
  • Why did GM delay notifying safety regulators about the increasing evidence of ignition switch problems and a possible link to airbag failure?
  • What did Mary Barra and other senior executives know about the defect?

History of Problems with the Ignition Switches

Even with many questions still unanswered, the GM documents that have been made public paint a startling picture. Problems with the ignition switches were known as early as 2001. In 2005, after mounting complaints from owners, it was determined by GM that it would cost the company 90 cents per vehicle plus $400,000 in production costs to correct the issue. That fix, however, was rejected as an “unacceptable business case.” The current estimated cost of the ignition recall is at $700 million.

Later on in 2006, the part was changed by engineer Ray DeGiorgio, but the new switch was given the same part number as the defective switch. The documentation for that change apparently became lost within GM until some time last year. Without that crucial information, safety regulators and even GM engineers struggled for years to figure out why airbags failed to deploy only in older models.

In the following years, the evidence that there was a problem with the ignition switches that caused airbag failure continued to mount. In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked GM about a crash involving a Cobalt in which the airbags failed to deploy and the ignition switch showed to be in the accessory position. General Motors conducted internal investigations starting in 2010 until last year.

GM Fined for Delay

Recently, GM was fined the maximum allowed fine of $35 million for what NHTSA says amounts to a failure on GM’s part to delay the recall in a timely manner. When announcing the fine, Acting Administrator David Friedman said, “GM engineers knew about the defect. GM investigators knew about the defect. GM lawyers knew about the defect.”


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