Did the NHTSA Also Drop the Ball in GM’s Recent Major Recall?

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credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jpowers65/

General Motors (NYSE:GM) has a lot on its plate with its recent 1.6 million vehicle recall, which was initiated in January and expanded last month, but a new report from the New York Times indicates that GM might be able to share at least a portion of the blame with federal regulators.

Reportedly, more than 260 complaints were submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the past 11 years regarding General Motors vehicles that suddenly turned off while being driven. The recall covers several models that, if too much weight is placed on the keyring, can turn off while the car is traveling, shutting off power steering, brakes, and perhaps most importantly, the car’s airbags. Some 13 fatalities have been linked directly to the problem, spread over 31 accidents.

Since 2003, the NHTSA received about two complaints per month over GM vehicles that shut down randomly, though it responded to the complaints repeatedly saying that there was not enough evidence of a problem to warrant a safety investigation, the Times said.

General Motors has already started sending alerts to owners of potentially affected vehicles, but the company is now under investigation about the timeliness of its response. The issues were first discovered in 2004 on cars from the 2005 model year, though the company took no recall action until January — and neither did the NHTSA, it seems.

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