Many West Virginia owners of Chevrolet Cobalts, Pontiac G5s and other small General Motors vehicles may have been surprised to learn their cars are being recalled. The news of a deadly defect, however, was not new to GM. It has been reported that GM was aware of the possible defect for more than 10 years before finally issuing a recall of 1.6 million vehicles–upped to about 2.6 million just today. It appears the company waited to warn the public until it definitively linked the flaw to 12 deaths, which all occurred prior to 2009.
Since 2009, more than 20 fatal car accidents involved now-recalled GM models. Twenty-six people were killed in those crashes.
The automaker is now being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department, which is attempting to uncover what the automaker knew and when.
The defect involves ignition switches, which can turn off by themselves if weighed down or bumped. Having a key fob or another key on the keychain that holds the ignition key is reportedly enough to trigger the problem. When the ignition switches off, the engine stops and the airbags disable; this can result in tragedy when a vehicle is in motion.
Records suggest that GM deceived grieving families whose loved ones died in car accidents caused by the faulty switches, and the automaker may have deceived federal regulators as well.
Toyota was recently fined $1.2 billion for misleading regulators as well as the public about a deadly acceleration problem in its vehicles, and it remains to be seen whether the government will levy a similar penalty on GM.
Those who have suffered harm due to a faulty ignition switch–or due to any defective automobile–should seek legal counsel. Consumers have rights and those rights must be protected.
Source: New York Times, “General Motors Misled Grieving Families on a Lethal Flaw,” Hilary Stout, Bill Vlasic, Danielle Ivory and Rebecca R. Ruiz, March 24, 2014