GM is having a difficult time with the spotlight shining on defective parts of their cars recently. Here’s a quick recap on the situation:
- Earlier this year, an automobile safety group reported that government data from car crashes shows that more than 300 people died from failed airbags in GM vehicles.
- That research led to a recall of two brands under the GM umbrella.
- Federal regulators are upset and concerned about the timing of the recall. After hearing of complaints, it became evident that GM knew about the problem and delayed the reporting of it.
- As early as 2001, the company started receiving reports of problems with ignition switches, but the recall only happened in early 2014.
- The official analysis of airbag failures happened between 2003 and 2012. Although the original part was approved by GM in 2002, it never met GM specifications.
As the company releases more information about their own reporting and consumer complaint reporting, it’s clear that they knew much more about the dangers earlier than they led us to believe. In the meantime, many drivers were placed at risk.
Another defect involved the switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and a few other models. These faulty switches faced a high likelihood of being jostled or bumped into an accessory mode while a driver operated the vehicle. When that happened, the engines would shut off and disable airbags, power brakes, and power steering. Drivers behind the wheel had little opportunity to respond to this and ended up in major car accidents. Despite clear indications of problems early on, the company waited many years to make the public aware of the issue.
NHTSA’s Questionable Decision
Initially, GM argued that the research data was highly flawed and full of speculation. Although there were a high number of complaints and issues being reported, regulators felt there was not enough evidence for an investigation to take place. Congressional investigators are uneasy with the NHTSA’s decision and are questioning why they did not identify a trend with airbags or ignition problems.
The refusal to flag such dangerous defects that put peoples’ lives in jeopardy is not acceptable. Many learned the lesson too late, and lost their lives or suffered from something that was entirely preventable. Imagine the fear you would experience if, all of a sudden, you had no control whatsoever of your vehicle, and as a result critical injuries, or even loss of life, occurred.
It’s highly likely that more details will come to light in the future weeks regarding the collection of data and reporting of consumer complaints.
Perhaps the most disturbing fact that have come to light involve GM’s timeline on when they truly became aware of the ignition issue. Their story has changed, raising many eyebrows, as it should.
The company had previously admitted receiving reports in 2004, but recently changed that answer to 2001. That defect alone has been connected with more than 30 crashes and 12 fatalities. 1.6 million cars were initially recalled, and that number has grown to 2.6 million in the recent weeks.
The manufacturer of the ignition switch, who is also questioning the delay in the recall, stated that this part is very inexpensive and can be changed out at a dealership within minutes. They, too, wonder why GM waited so long to inform consumers of the issue.
Last week the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee revealed that GM approved faulty ignition switches and therefore is responsible for for the deaths of 13 individuals.
Early evidence from the approximate 200,000 documents submitted by GM shows that some individuals asked questions about modifying the ignition switch, but those concerns were brushed aside by engineers.
Other documents from 2005 identify that engineers recognized the problem, but were troubled by coming up with a solution. According to one senior engineer, modifying the current ignition switch would have been impossible due to a “fragile” design.
Car manufacturers have a duty to put consumer safety above any other priority, and this is especially important on the roadways. With distracted driving, road rage, drowsy driving and many other dangers we already face while driving, a defective automobile should not be a concern.
In any car crash involving serious injury or death, which you believe was caused by the careless or reckless conduct of another individual or company, contact an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible. For a free consultation with a top-rated attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at 312-527-4500.