Girardi | Keese

NHTSA looking for answers from GM over delayed recall

In our last post, we discussed how General Motors had recalled 1.37 million cars here in the U.S. for a faulty ignition switch that has been linked to at least 31 motor vehicle accidents and 13 traffic fatalities.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as if things are going to get any easier for the car giant anytime soon, as the federal government is now demanding detailed answers to 107 very specific questions.

Specifically, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially opened a "timeliness' investigation into the GM recall earlier this week, ordering the American automaker to provide comprehensive information concerning why it took so long to initiate the recall given that it first learned of a potential problem as early as 2004.

In general, the federal rules concerning auto defects dictate that carmakers have a maximum of five business days to file a report with the NHTSA concerning a potential safety issue. Failure to abide by this rule can result in a fine of $35 million and a possible criminal investigation.

For its part, GM has pledged to cooperate with the NHTSA and even announced via a letter to employees that it will soon be conducting its own "internal review to give [the company] an unvarnished report on what happened."

While there appears to be some belief among industry experts that GM will attempt to place the blame for the recall delay largely on prior management, they also indicate that the NHTSA may not be quite so forgiving.

"While the time-frame suggests this issue occurred before GM's [2009 bankruptcy] restructuring, it's clear the government will hold current management responsible if it finds a lack of urgency and transparency," said a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

For those unfamiliar with the background of this story, the faulty switches essentially make it possible for the ignitions on affected models to slip from the "run" position (i.e., motor running) to the "accessory" position (i.e., no motor running and no power to safety systems) while in motion.

While GM dealers will start replacing the ignition switches next month, they have warned drivers that they should minimize potential risks of the ignition slipping by detaching the vehicle key from a key ring and using it on its own.

The models covered by the recall include the 05-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 07 Pontiac G5, 03-07 Saturn Ion, 06-07 Chevrolet HHR, 06-07 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.

If you have suffered serious personal injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident that you believe was caused by a dangerous auto defect, consider speaking with an experienced attorney to learn more about your rights and options for seeking justice.

Source: USA Today, "Feds order GM to explain recall lag," James Healey and Fred Meier, March 5, 2014    

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