General Motors Co. said it is questioning employees involved in the handling of the recall of cars whose faulty ignition switches have been linked to 13 deaths in crashes where air bags did not deploy.
A team of attorneys investigating the recall of more than 1.6 million vehicles is interviewing employees to learn how the company handled the issue since it was first discovered in 2004, according to people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified, Reuters reports. Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, did not give details of the probe but said that chief executive Mary Barra promised an “unvarnished” look at how the process was handled.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave GM a list of 107 questions from) about the company’s handling of the recall. Last week, Reuters reports, NHTSA opened an investigation into whether GM reacted quickly enough. NHTSA asked for details of the recall, including the names of all GM employees involved in the process from the start. The safety agency asked for details of the problem with the ignition switch, related warranty data, and any lawsuits filed in connection with the issue, including copies of depositions by company employees. In its communication, NHTSA cited a comment by North American chief Alan Batey, who said GM’s process “was not as robust as it should have been;” NHTSA asked the company to describe where it fell short.
The problem behind the massive recall first came to light in 2004, with reports that in some GM cars the ignition could accidentally switch off, turning off the car’s electrical systems and disabling the air bags, The New York Times reported. Thirteen deaths have been linked to the failure of air bags to deploy in a crash. GM previously said the weight of items on the key ring, road conditions, or accidental jostling of the key could cause the ignition switch to move out of the “run” position, turning off the engine, Reuters reports. In a 2005 service bulletin to dealers, GM has recommended that owners not place anything on the key ring with the ignition key.
For nearly ten years, despite its knowledge of injuries and death, the company took no action to correct the defect. The recall was announced in January 2014. The company said last week that the initial replacement parts will be available in early April, according to Reuters.