On February 10, 2014, GM announced that it was recalling certain models of its Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles, affecting over 780,000 cars. Just days later, the company expanded its recall to include 1.6 million vehicles worldwide. The full list of recalled models now include:
- 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt
- 2006-2006 Chevrolet HHR
- 2003-2007 Saturn Ion
- 2007 Pontiac G5
- 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice
- 2007 Saturn Sky
According to documents filed on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, the problem with these vehicles is that “the weight on the key ring and/or road conditions or some other jarring event may cause the ignition switch to move out of the run position.” As a result, the engine turns off and the driver is unable to access vital features such as brakes, airbags and power steering. GM told NHTSA that the cars’ “ignition switch torque performance” failed to meet mandatory specifications.
13 Deaths and 31 Car Crashes Linked to Ignition Switch Defect
On February 25, 2014, The Detroit News reported that 13 deaths and 31 crashes were linked to the ignition switch defect. The company has admitted the problem, and its official statement shows how widespread the defect is:
“In addition to 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada only, GM is separately recalling 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, and 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky models. The affected U.S. vehicle population, including those vehicles recalled Feb. 13, totals 1,367,146.”
GM North America president Alan Batley also admitted that the company did not analyze the issue thoroughly, stating that“the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been.”
GM Allegedly Knew About Ignition in 2004, Failed to Report Defect to NHTSA
The company says its “deeply sorry,” yet GM knew about the ignition switch issue for a decade before recalling these vehicles. CNN reported on February 21, 2014 that a GM engineer first discovered the defect in 2004 while examining a test drive vehicle. Other engineers confirmed the problem in 2005, according to legal documents. CNN noted in its report that automobile makers are supposed to report any safety defects to the NHTSA within 5 days or risk facing a maximum fine of $35 million. NHTSA also requires a “detailed chronology of events” when a recall is issued, something that GM failed to do.
Furthermore, GM initially tried to deny that it needed to issue a larger recall. The company tried to blame the deaths on other factors like alcohol use and speeding. Now, it seems that the company has to face the problem, telling drivers to not have any key chains or fobs attached the key until dealers can replace the ignition switch, expected on April 7, 2014.
Family Files Second Lawsuit Over Daughter’s Death, Faulty Ignition Switches
A new lawsuit was just brought against GM over its faulty ignition switches. The lawsuit was filed by the parents of a girl who died in 2010 when her 2005 Chevy Cobalt crashed with another vehicle and went off a Cobb County, Georgia road. Her parents sued GM over the crash in 2013 and settled, also last year, for an undisclosed amount, CNBC reported.
This new lawsuit filed by the girl’s parents, accuses the automaker of fraud and concealing evidence tied to the faulty ignition switches and also involves a deposition taken by Ray DeGiorgio, a GM engineer who was deposed during the original lawsuit brought over the girl’s death. At that time, DeGiorgio was asked about changes to a portion of the ignition switch. DeGiorgio, under oath, said that he never authorized changes to the switch, according to CNBC. Meanwhile, documents surrendered to the NHTSA and Congress revealed that DeGiorgio had, in fact, signed off on a change to a critical piece of the switch, CNBC noted in its report.
Capitol Hill senators provided the document to GM CEO Mary Barra during her testimony before Congress in early April, and Senator Claire McCaskill (Democrat-Montana) asked why Barra and GM had not disciplined DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, also a GM engineer. Both worked on the ignition switches and, after the hearings, wrote CNBC, both were placed on paid leave.
This lawsuit is believed to be the first filed since the documents were revealed. According to CNBC, the documents reveal that a GM engineer signed off on changing a part in the switches, but not on changing the part number. Had the part number been changed, those at GM and Delphi, which manufactured the switch, would have realized that alterations were needed.
According to the family’s attorney, they would never have settled the original case had they been made aware of the perjury and that critical evidence was concealed; it seems that the auto maker’s plan may have been to resolve the family’s claims before the ignition switch design changes in the Cobalt were disclosed, the family’s lawyer said, according to CNBC. GM has recalled nearly 2.6 million cars over faulty ignition switches, to date.
The family’s attorney plans on re-deposing all GM executives questioned in the first lawsuit and may depose Barra in this second case.
Legal Help for Victims Affected by the General Motors Vehicle Recall
If you or a loved one have a GM recalled vehicle or were injured due to the ignition defect, you have valuable legal rights. Fill out our online form or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).