GM Recall Raises Question of NHTSA’s Role

by P. Brian Berryman on 03/26/2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now answering questions about its role in the GM recall of 1.6 million vehicles due to defective ignition switches.  The regulator has commissioned special investigations of crashes involving three GM-made cars that have now been recalled, but poteentially ignored signs of a dangerous defect.

An important clue in all three investigations went ignored while the focus remained on airbag deployment; not the ignition switches slipping out of the “on” position while the vehicles were in operation. An agency representative suggested this month that officials did not know of the problems with ignition switches that had been identified by GM. The NHTSA relies upon automakers like GM to provide data on equipment failures and the context in which they occur to determine if adverse events are isolated incidents or part a dangerous trend that warrants a safety recall. The lack of notification on the part of GM suggests the automaker knew of the problem and purposefully withheld evidence.

Evidence supporting GM’s knowledge of the issue includes legal staff opening files on a September 2005 crash then telling regulators they had no knowledge of the accident, engineers identifying problems followed by a 2006 design change without an identifying number of the part, and the black box data of at least 11 crashes revealed airbags failed because the ignition had slipped to accessory mode. The ignition slipping out of the “on” position while the vehicle is in operation causes power to be cut to the airbags, steering, and brakes. At least one crash survivor reported the car was shut off prior to the event.

The recall includes: all 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit (Canada), 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky.

If you or a loved one have experienced an injury due to the malfunction of a GM manufactured automobile, please contact the automotive defect lawyers at Watts Guerra.




Tags: Automotive Defects, General Motors

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