Could GM Have Saved Lives With An Earlier Chevy Cobalt Recall? – Forbes

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014

At least 12 deaths have been connected to faulty ignition switches in General Motors General Motors cars from last decade, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion. Now, Automotive News is reporting that most of those deaths took place after GM redesigned the ignition part.

The trade publication also is asking a key question: could GM have saved lives if it had recalled vehicles earlier?

In a report by Nick Bunkley, Automotive News found that seven of eight deaths in Cobalts occurred after April 2006, when GM approved a redesign of the ignition switch. Meanwhile, the paper says that one of four deaths in Ions also took place after the part was redesigned.

Significantly, all those cars were built before GM redesigned the ignition part. “Had GM simultaneously elected to recall the cars, repairs could have been performed before a majority of the fatal crashes happened,” Automotive News said.

Further, only one of the deaths took place after GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009. GM’s liability is limited for crashes that took place before it entered bankruptcy protection, but it could conceivably be sued for accidents that occur after it left Chapter 11. It is taking a $300 million charge to reflect the cost of recalling 1.6 million vehicles with potentially faulty switches, as well as three other recalls.

Automotive News says GM has not provided details in 11 of 12 fatalities, and some victims’ families told the publication that they have never been contacted by GM. If the ignition were to fail, the car could lose power, making it difficult to steer. A loss of power also could mean that the airbags would not deploy, putting drivers at more risk in crashes.

2005-2008 Chevrolet Cobalt photographed in Col...

Chevrolet Cobalt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a statement to the publication, GM spokesman Jim Cain said, “All of the incidents that are chronicled in our submission will be reviewed with the appropriate internal examiners and external investigators. We’re complying with all of it. We’re investigating, and we’re providing full and complete responses to (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) as well the other parties investigating what happened.”

Earlier, the publication reported that GM redesigned the switch, but did not change the part number, considered a “cardinal sin” for engineers trying to track the defects. GM had declined comment on that report.

GM’s chief executive, Mary Barra, is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday about the ignition recalls. She has vowed that the company will “do what’s right” for customers after its investigation is completed.

The GM recall crisis comes only two months after Barra took charge of the largest U.S. automaker. The situation also coincides with a $1.2 billion settlement between the Justice Department and Toyota. The Japanese auto company acknowledged misleading consumers over the circumstances surrounding millions of recalls for sticky accelerator pedals and alleged unintended acceleration.




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