Federal safety regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently made documents public that show automotive manufacturer General Motors (GM) knew about ignition defects before 2004. Documents in the report indicate that GM officials were alerted to the defect in 2003, and possibly knew about it as early as 1997.
GM has been in hot water with the NHTSA and the public due to its failure to issue a timely recall for a dangerous ignition switch flaw. The flaw allows the ignition key to fall out of place while the vehicle is in motion, which causes the vehicle to suddenly shut off and disable airbags and power steering. GM finally issued a recall in early 2014 and, since February, has recalled approximately 17 million vehicles for this and other safety issues.
Investigations revealed that during a test drive of the Chevrolet Cobalt conducted in 2004, a GM engineer accidentally bumped the ignition key, causing the car to lose power. The engineer recommended a fix for the defect, though GM reportedly thought the fix was too expensive. In the 10 years since 2004, at least 13 deaths have occurred in accidents caused by the ignition defect, with many more injuries, and GM faces numerous lawsuits from injured parties.
The newest report published demonstrates GM knew of the defect even before 2004, however. Documents state that in 2003, a customer filed a complaint with GM about the engine stalling in a Pontiac Grand Am. Additionally, the customer actually demonstrated the ignition shutting off for GM officials. GM issued a quiet warning to dealers, but opted not to alert consumers or issue a safety recall at that time.
Furthermore, though the Chevy Cobalt has been the main focus of the ignition recalls thus far, this new report demonstrates that other past models were affected by the defect, as well. This is likely the reason behind the most recent recall of older model Chevy Malibus, Pontiac Grand Ams, and Oldsmobile Aleros and Intrigues dating back to 1997. This also means that accidents, injuries, and deaths may have occurred as early as 1997 due to ignition switch issues.
If you believe you have suffered injury in an accident caused by a GM ignition switch, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Do not hesitate to contact the law office of Lopez McHugh, LLP today for a free consultation.