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GM Recall Delay

GM Recall Delay: What Did GM Know and When?

An attorney for the family of a Georgia woman who was killed in 2010 while driving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt when it suddenly lost is alleging that General Motors has known about the dangerous problem that led to the recall for nearly a decade before finally issuing the recall.  The Cobalt is one of two GM models that was subject to a recall of 778,000 vehicles the company initiated earlier this month.

The problem that brought on the recall of all Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models manufactured between 2005 and 2007 is a faulty ignition switch, which can cause the vehicle to turn off if it is bumped or shaken out of the “on” position. This total loss of power can happen at any time, including when the car is speeding down a highway. The loss of power could also cause the airbags to fail to deploy in the crash.  So far, GM has admitted to six deaths due to the problem.

According to a letter that was sent by the family of the accident victim to the Department of Transportation, it’s alleged that GM knew about the ignition defect as early as 2004, but failed to recall the vehicles. In 2005, the company posted a service bulletin to dealers to address customer complaints, in which they said, “there is potential for the driver to inadvertently turn off the ignition. … the concern is more likely to occur if the driver is short and has a large and or heavy key chain.” Despite this, the company offered no fix, and did not recall the cars.

According to court records, an engineer with GM was conducting tests on one of the vehicles in 2004, and experienced the problem, and that, in 2005, the company’s engineering department concluded that there was a problem with the ignition switch. They apparently tried to fix the problem without actually issuing recalls, according to the letter. Instead, they issued “Technical Service Bulletins,” (TSB) which instructed dealers to fix problems not deemed safety related. In this case, the “fix” involved placing an insert into the ignition switch, which didn’t fix the problem. The letter also suggests that GM should be recalling a number of other models, besides the Cobalt and G5, especially because the Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn models Sky and Ion were also listed in the same TSB.

Auto manufacturers have five days from the discovery of a safety defect to report it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If they fail to do so, they face a maximum fine of $35 million. Ford had to pay the maximum last year, which was $17.4 million at the time, because they failed to promptly recall Ford Escapes with faulty gas pedals that could become stuck. The maximum fine was increased in October 2013. Usually, when an automaker issues a recall, they include a detailed chronology of events leading up to the recall is part of the information provided. In this case, however, GM did not do that, and they don’t indicate in their NHTSA paperwork when they first knew of the problem.

If you own either of the vehicles involved in this recall, follow the instructions of the recall and have it inspected and repaired immediately. In this case, if you have one of the other vehicles listed, you might want to have them checked out as well. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident involving any of these vehicles, please contact the experienced Texas Automobile Defect Attorney at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible.

Automotive Defects, Product Liability, Vehicle Recalls