In February, GM issued a recall for 1.4 million cars because of a defect in the ignition switch. This defect caused the car to switch off, thereby disabling the airbags and other safety features.
More than 30 crashes and 13 deaths have been attributed to the defect.
Unfortunately, GM knew about the defect for more than a decade but chose not to act. Why would they do this?
One possibility is that serious miscommunications in the company caused them to miss a serious of red flags. The other, more horrifying, possibility is that the company engaged in a cover-up to avoid having to pay for fix the cars or the resulting lawsuits from the defect.
Last month, the new head of GM, Mary Barra, was questioned during a Congressional hearing. During the hearing, lawmakers asked why it’s taken GM a decade to address the defect and issue a recall.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Barra dodged many of the questions, saying, “I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced. I can tell you we will find out.”
GM says that it is currently doing an internal investigation to find out why this problem was allowed to run rampant for so many years. However, that isn’t enough—nor should it be—for federal investigators.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent GM 107 questions “in order to determine if the company answered questions about defects promptly,” according to Time magazine. (The NHTSA requires manufacturers to alert safety regulators to defects within a certain time frame after learning of the defect.) The NHTSA says that GM did not answer more than one-third of the questions, and as a result, GM will be fined $7,000 per day until the questions are answered.
In addition, the U.S. Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into the issue.
In the meantime, GM has increased the recall to 2.5 million cars. It has also begun to repair the cars with the defective ignition switch. Still, repairs of all the cars could take weeks—if not months—because replacement parts are limited.
Currently, GM is not offering loaner cars to affected drivers; however, they could be forced to do so if a judge rules it.
If you have an affected GM vehicle, remove all heavy objects from your key ring in order to decrease the odds that the ignition switch will turn to the “off” position. Or, better yet, find alternate transportation if you can.
Photo Credit: Flickr contirbutor, Jason Lawrence