In the wake of its recent recall of an estimated 29 million motor vehicles, General Motors (GM) has admitted that certain employees had knowledge of the ignition switch defect for over ten years prior to the recalls. New information shows that GM ignored numerous serious complaints regarding the defective ignition switch.
Bloomberg news obtained documents via a Freedom of Information Act request that included numerous reports from rental car companies regarding problems with the Chevy Cobalt and the Saturn Ion—the two models most affected by the ignition switch defect. Rental car companies are often the first to use a new model of a vehicle on a widespread basis, especially compact economy cars like the Cobalt and Ion, so is no surprise that rental companies were the first to report major concerns regarding these vehicles.
Complaints Against GM
Vanguard Automotive, which owns Alamo Rent A Car, reported that in 2006 a driver who had rented a brand new Chevy Cobalt suddenly appeared to lose control of the car. The driver was wearing a seatbelt, but the airbag did not deploy, and the driver died. The cause of the accident was not immediately evident, since there was little traffic in clear weather conditions. Vanguard requested that GM inspect the Cobalt model for potential defects due to the “serious nature” of the incident. There was no evidence that GM performed such an inspection.
Enterprise Holdings also filed reports regarding devastating accidents in both the Ion and the Cobalt. In 2005, a family was riding in a rented Ion when the driver lost control. Both a woman and her former husband died in the crash, while their teenage daughter suffered severe brain damage. The next year, a Chevy Cobalt crashed into a tree. The air bags failed to deploy and the driver died. According to the report, GM never opened a formal investigation into a possible defect.
Hertz and Avis also issued reports of failed airbag deployments in collisions. Overall, the documents exposed complaints that the Cobalt and Ion had caused 30 accidents and 37 fatalities. Prior to these documents coming to light, GM had cited the number of ignition switch fatalities at only 13.
People who were hurt in an accident they believe was caused by a faulty GM ignition switch should contact an experienced products liability attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at Lopez McHugh, LLP are actively investigating potential GM lawsuits, so contact our office today.