General Motors has recalled 1.6 million vehicles due to a defective ignition switch that can cause engines to shut off and prevent airbags from deploying in the event of an accident. According to media reports, a heavy key chain or a “jarring event” such as driving off the road could cause the ignition switch to move out of the “on” position, shutting off a car’s engine and electrical systems.
The ignition switch defect has caused at least 31 car accidents and 12 deaths. In addition, investigators are reviewing whether defective ignition switches may have contributed to more than 300 fatal accidents involving recalled vehicles in which airbags failed to deploy.
The following makes and model years are affected by the recall:
- Chevrolet Cobalt, 2005-2007
- Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007
- Pontiac G5, 2005-2007
- Pontiac Solstice, 2006-2007
- Saturn Ion, 2003-2007
- Saturn Sky, 2007
GM allegedly knew about the ignition switch defect as early as 2001, but failed to alert the public about the problem or issue a recall at that time. As reported by NBC News, in 2005 GM engineers developed a partial solution to the ignition switch problem that would only cost approximately $1 per vehicle, but the car company made a “business decision” not to implement the repair.
Last week, the United States Department of Justice announced that it has opened a criminal investigation into why GM waited over ten years to issue the product liability recall. Furthermore, the Senate’s Consumer Protection Subcommittee will conduct a hearing regarding the delayed recall and the House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation regarding the timing of the recall.
On Monday, GM recalled an additional 1.5 million vehicles because of mechanical problems unrelated to the ignition switch recall. The company also stated that it plans to take a $300 million charge for expenses related to the recalls.
In a video message to employees, GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Bara stated, “something went wrong with our process in this instance, and terrible things happened.”