General Motors has been in the news in recent months because of its appalling mishandling of its ignition switch defect and recall.
The defect in the ignition switch of several different GM vehicles, including the Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac Solstice, and Saturn Ion, allowed the switch to move from the “On” position into “Off” or “Accessory” mode if the key was too heavy. This put drivers in danger, as the defect could disable the airbags, anti-lock brakes, and power steering while the car is in motion.
In fact, the GM ignition switch defect has been clearly linked to the deaths of 13 people and dozens more accidents.
Most alarmingly, GM had knowledge of the defect since 2004 but didn’t fix the ignition switch until 2007—and didn’t issue a recall until just this past year.
The recall affected 2.6 million vehicles—which, until recently, were being driven by unsuspecting drivers who had no idea that their car was an accident waiting to happen.
As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—the government agency responsible for investigating safety defects and enforcing vehicle safety standards—slapped GM with a record fine: $35 million, the highest civil penalty possible, according to Time.
GM has also agreed to provide the NHTSA with complete access to the results of the company’s internal investigation into the defect.
The company plans to manufacture enough repair parts to repair the majority of the affected vehicles by October of this year.
The NHTSA Transportation Secretary stated that the record fine will serve to warn manufacturers that they will be held accountable for delays. He also urged Congress to pay the GROW AMERICA Act, which would increase the possible penalties from $35 million to $300 million.
The car accident lawyers at Martinson & Beason, P.C. would like to know what you think. Is a $35 million fine an appropriate penalty? Do you believe it will be enough to dissuade manufacturers from delaying recalls and endangering the American public?