It has recently been reported that General Motors (GM) and regulators have failed for over 10 years to fix a fundamental problem with a defective ignition switch. Due to this defect, the ignition switch can shut off the engine and power system when it is bumped or weighed down (which can be done by something as small as a heavy key ring). This then disables the air bags.
GM reported that the defective ignition switch was linked to 31 accidents and 12 deaths. However, a recent review of federal data states otherwise. The Friedman Research Corporation has looked into air bag failures spanning from 2003 to 2012 and has found that the reports paint a grim picture of the defective part's actual consequences. This new data shows that more than 300 people have died in related accidents.
GM Recalls 1.6 Million Vehicles
Reports show that GM has known about the problem for a decade and even changed the ignition switch model without announcement several years ago. This is directly contradictory to federal law that requires automakers to report an issue to the federal safety board within five days of discovery. Despite reports stating the company has known about the issue, GM only announced a recall in February. Since then, this defective part has led GM recalling six different car models and more than 1.6 million vehicles.
Examples of the models that have been recalled include:
- 2003 to 2007 Saturn Ion
- 2005 to 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
- 2006 to 2007 Chevrolet HHR & Pontiac Solstice
- 2007 Saturn Sky
- 2007 Pontiac G5 & Pontiac Pursuit
The Story of Hasaya Chansuthus
In 2009, Hasaya Chansuthus was driving her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt in the rain when she was sideswiped. Her car crashed into a tree while driving at 70 MPH and the air bags did not deploy. According to the family, one of the most troubling aspects of this fatal accident was the fact that her accident had been largely worsened by the failure of supposed safety devices. Not only did her airbag fail to deploy, but it was evident that her seatbelt had failed to correctly lock, all of which seems to point to a problem with the power system. When recent reports came out about the problems with the ignition switch, the family filed a complaint with GM, which was quickly followed by a lawsuit. They later reached a confidential settlement.
The Investigation of General Motors
Currently, there are several different organizations and groups that are investigating into GM. For example, the Justice Department and Congress are investigating the motor vehicle titan to see why the company took so long to take action with their recalls. On the other hand, the Transportation Department is investigating why GM delayed for so long in reporting the problems with the ignition switches to the NHTSA. The U.S. Attorney's office in New York has also recently opened up a criminal investigation to determine whether any part of GM's failure can be classified as criminal behavior. The FBI has also joined this investigation.