It’s become very clear that General Motors faces some grave problems because of its failure to act appropriately relating to a most serious safety issue. General Motors has to deal with the problems caused by a defective ignition system in its vehicles. Those problems, without any doubt, are a major safety concern for lots of folks. Hazards caused by a specific vehicle defect in GM vehicles have caused the deaths of more than 300 people, according to reliable reports. The defect causing the safety hazards, a badly designed ignition system, has been known to General Motors for more than a decade. The automaker also knew about at least some of the deaths that have occurred. It admits to knowing of 12 deaths. In a shocking display of a lack of concern, the automaker refused to issue a recall of the affected vehicles until February of this year. The following will give some insight into the magnitude of the automaker’s problems.
Ignition Switch Recall Linked To Serious Injuries And Deaths
On Feb. 13, 2014, General Motors recalled 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and certain Pontiac vehicles to repair an ignition switch problem that can allow the key to slip from its “run” position when the car hits a bump or if the keychain is too heavy. When this happens, the defect can cause an engine shutdown and loss of power steering, brakes, and safety systems, including airbags and anti-lock brakes. The ignition switch default, according to GM, has been linked to 31 crashes involving airbags that failed to deploy and the deaths of 13 motorists. That number is now believed to be grossly understated.
On Feb. 25,, GM expanded the recall to include hundreds of thousands of additional Chevy, Pontiac, and Saturn cars, bringing the total number of affected vehicles to 1.4 million. It is evident that GM knew about the safety problem and failed to notify either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or their customers. Depositions taken during a civil lawsuit against GM revealed the automaker knew in 2004, a full decade before it issued a recall, that its Chevrolet Cobalt had an ignition switch that could inadvertently shut off the engine while driving. This was an obvious safety hazard and one that should have been reported.
1.5 Million Vehicles Recalled
General Motors has now recalled an additional 1.5 million vehicles. That recall includes three different models for a variety of problems, all safety-related. The majority of vehicles included in the new recall are the 2008-13 Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, the 2009-13 Chevrolet Traverse and the 2008-2010 Saturn Outlook, which are all crossover SUV models. These vehicles make up 1.2 million of the recall number. GM cites the reason for the recall as a problem with the wiring in the seat-mounted side airbags.
GM says customers will see a vehicle warning light that says “Service Air Bag.” If this warning is ignored, it can result in the airbag not deploying in the event of a side-impact crash. The defect can also cause other side-impact crash safety systems not to work.
GM issued a second recall encompassing 64,000 Cadillac XTS full-size sedans, model years 2013 and 2014 for overheating brakes. The brake problem has been linked to two vehicle fires.
Additionally, GM has recalled 303,000 Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans. The automaker says it needs to “rework” the material on the instrument panel to improve safety for passengers who are not wearing a seat belt and may impact the area in a crash. These vans are usually sold for commercial use.
Airbag Failure May Have Caused More Than 300 Deaths
U.S. safety regulators have recorded 303 deaths when airbags failed to deploy in the 1.6 million compact cars that were recalled last month by General Motors. A study released on March 13 by the Center for Auto Safety, a well-respected safety watchdog group, reveals that GM has big time safety problems. The new report and higher death toll ratchet up the pressure on GM, which has said it has reports of only 13 deaths in 34 crashes in the recalled cars. GM did not recall the cars until February, despite learning of problems with the ignition switch in 2001 and issuing related service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005. It failed to notify NHTSA at the time.
The Center for Auto Safety said it referenced crash and fatality data from the NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Clarence Ditlow, the center’s executive director, said:
NHTSA could and should have initiated a defect investigation to determine why airbags were not deploying in Cobalts and Ions in increasing numbers.
NHTSA has been criticized for not pressing GM to recall the cars with defective switches, despite receiving hundreds of consumer complaints in the past 10 years and implementing its own investigations of two fatalities related to the faulty ignition switches. That’s impossible to justify.
The Center’s study, conducted by Friedman Research Corp of Austin, Texas, also cross-referenced fatality data supplied by GM to NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting (EWR) database. “Combining EWR and FARS data as (the center) did should have raised a red flag to NHTSA,” Ditlow said in a letter sent to NHTSA. In a review of the EWR filings, Reuters found GM reports of three fatal crashes involving the Saturn Ion in 2003 and 2004, well before the first confirmed fatality in a Chevrolet Cobalt. Two of the three Ion crashes involved non-deployment of airbags, according to the center’s analysis of the data.
Sources: USA Today, CNBC, New York Times, and General Motors, CNN Money and Reuters
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