Tags: Safety | probe | GM | Recall

Safety Regulator Probes GM over Delayed Recall

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 07:45 PM

U.S. regulators are investigating why General Motors Co. took years to recall 1.6 million small cars over an ignition-switch defect linked to 13 deaths in crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the probe in an e-mailed statement. The agency could fine GM as much as $35 million, which would be the most ever, if it finds the largest U.S. automaker failed to pursue a recall when it knew the cars were defective.

GM Tuesday said it was “deeply sorry” as it more than doubled the number of cars it will fix and expanded the number of models to seven from two. The recall covers six models in the U.S., including the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky.

“It is a major event for General Motors to apologize,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group that had pushed for the expanded recall. “NHTSA will still want its penalty. They’ll want to send a message to the other automakers to toe the line better.”

The Detroit-based automaker, like other car companies, faces a legal obligation to act on and report safety-related defects in a timely manner. Congress last year increased the maximum fines NHTSA can impose to $35 million to hold automakers more accountable after Toyota Motor Corp.’s unintended-acceleration recalls in 2010.

GM said key rings that are too heavy or jarring can cause ignition switches to slip out of the run position, in turn causing the engines to shut off and a crash-sensing algorithm to misfire in a way that deactivates the airbags.

Key Only

NHTSA is urging owners and drivers of the affected cars to use only the ignition key while operating their vehicles, and to take them in for the free repair as soon as it’s available, said an agency spokesman, Nathan Naylor.

The agency will look at the frequency of the incidents, the number of cars covered by the recall and the severity of injuries in determining how much to penalize a manufacturer, said David Strickland, NHTSA’s former administrator.

“They look at the egregiousness of the facts, whether a manufacturer knew or should have known,” said Strickland, now an attorney for Venable LLP in Washington.

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U.S. regulators are investigating why General Motors Co. took years to recall 1.6 million small cars over an ignition-switch defect linked to 13 deaths in crashes.
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Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 07:45 PM
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