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As of July 2014, at least 54 accidents have occurred in vehicles containing the improperly designed ignition switches, leading to as many as 13 fatalities and hundreds of people injured. 1 Victims of crashes in vehicles with malfunctioning parts that inhibited the airbag from deploying may be eligible for a free case review. Fill out the form to the right if you think you may qualify.
Defective General Motors Ignition Switches
According to GM’s recall website, an ignition switch defect may cause some vehicles manufactured by the company to shut off while in operation by turning the ignition to the “off” or “accessories” position. Having a keyring, key fob or other object attached to your ignition key can increase the probability of triggering the defect. Another flaw allows the ignition key to be removed in some cases while the vehicle is running, which the company has admitted could lead to accidents and injuries to vehicle occupants and pedestrians. 2
GM announced its first recall notice for this defect in February 2014. Over the next several months, GM added more models to its list of vehicles affected by the faulty ignition switches, totalling more than 17 million cars, trucks and SUVs. GM has admitted to knowing about the defect for more than a decade. 3
NHTSA Timeliness Investigation Into General Motors
On February 26, 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division within the U.S. Department of Transportation, ordered a “timeliness query” to investigate the chronology of General Motors’ internal examination of the ignition switch defect and the delay in executing a recall. 4
According to the consent order issued in May 2014, GM admitted to violating the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act by neglecting to advise the NHTSA about the ignition switch problems and issue a consumer recall in a timely manner. As a result, the company agreed to pay $35 million, the maximum civil penalty allowed under the law, plus additional fines for failing to respond to the NHTSA’s inquiry within the required time period. In addition, as part of the order GM agreed to stricter oversight by the NHTSA, including monthly updates about every safety-related matter related to its vehicles. 5
Congressional Hearings About General Motors
High-ranking GM officials, such as CEO Mary Barra and Chief Counsel Michael Millikin, have been called to testify before the U.S. Congress about the recall. Barra has appeared before subcommittees in both the House and the Senate.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has accused GM’s lawyers of “cover-up, concealment, deceit and even fraud” and called for criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice. Blumenthal has also called for GM to dismiss Millikin for his role in the events. 6
General Motors Victim Fund and Lawsuits
To help compensate victims of crashes related to the faulty ignition switch, GM set up a fund from which to make settlement payments. According to some analysts, the fund could pay out as much as $3 billion to victims and their families, with potential to grow bigger depending on the number of claims that come forward. 7
Only fraction of the GM vehicles recalled have initially been included in the company’s dedicated compensation fund. During a senate subcommittee hearing in July 2014, Mary Barra stated that GM would not expand that initial group to other models affected by faulty ignition switches. However, legislators have continued to pressure the company to broaden the selection of eligible models based on subsequent recalls. 8
General Motors Models Recalled
The 2014 GM recalls have affected more than 20 models from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn vehicle brands, going as far back as 1997. In addition, GM has halted the sale of some new models that potentially contain defective parts, and further investigations by the company and government agencies may continue to uncover models that need to be recalled.
The following list provides an overview of GM vehicles that have been recalled through the first half of 2014.
- Buick Lacrosse (2005-2009)
- Buick Lucerne (2006–2011)
- Buick Regal LS and GS (2004–2005)
- Cadillac CTS (2003-2013)
- Cadillac Deville (2000–2005)
- Cadillac DTS (2004–2011)
- Cadillac SRX (2004-2006)
- Chevrolet Camaro (2010 – 2014)
- Chevrolet Cobalt (2005 – 2010)
- Chevrolet HHR (2006-2011)
- Chevrolet Impala (2000-2014)
- Chevrolet Malibu (1997-2005)
- Chevrolet Monte Carlo (2000–2008)
- Oldsmobile Alero (1999-2004)
- Oldsmobile Intrigue (1998-2002)
- Pontiac Grand Am (1999-2005)
- Pontiac Grand Prix (2004-2008)
- Pontiac G5 (2007-2010)
- Pontiac Solstice (2006-2010)
- Saturn Ion (2003-2007)
- Saturn Sky (2007-2010)
- Wallace, Gregory. Every General Motors recall in 2014. July 2, 2014. CNNMoney. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- General Motors. Ignition Recall Safety Information. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- Ruiz, Rebecca R. Documents Show General Motors Kept Silent on Fatal Crashes. (July 15, 2014). NYTimes.com. Accessed July 17, 2014.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Record Fines, Unprecedented Oversight Requirements in GM Investigation. (May 16, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. TQ14-001 Consent Order. (May 16, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Healey, James R. Senators: Fire GM legal chief, pay more recall victims. (July 17, 2014). Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Yang, Yang. GM Compensation Fund: New Payment Details Emerge. (June 30, 2014). Bloomberg News. Accessed July 21, 2014.
- Vlasic, Bill. At Hearing on G.M. Recall, Mary Barra Gives Little Ground. (July 17, 2014). NYTimes.com. Accessed July 21, 2014.