Lawsuit Says GM Recall Is 10 Years and 6 Deaths Too Late

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When General Motors (NYSE:GM) issued a recall for nearly 800,000 cars on February 13, the automaker seemed to have a large yet containable mess on its hands. A week later, the situation has gone from bad to extremely ugly as the details of a lawsuit come to light. According to USA Today, court documents reveal testimony that GM knew of the problem in its Chevy Cobalts cars in 2004 but waited another 10 years — during which there were six fatal crashes — to recall the defective models.

The court papers in question recount the testimony of a General Motors engineer who said he identified the problem, which affects Chevy Cobalts from 2005 to 2007 and the Pontiac G5 from 2007, way back in 2004. USA Today reports that this engineer’s discovery led the automaker to issue bulletins to dealers in 2005 informing them of the problem. Advising dealers to provide a fix for unsold cars, GM reportedly did not suggest dealers inform customers who had already bought the defective Chevy and Pontiac cars that their cars had a problem worthy of serious concern.

Since 2005, at least 22 crashes and six fatalities have occurred in the models in question, in which the ignition switch could cause the airbags to deploy improperly or not at all. The GM engineer who testified in the lawsuit in 2013 said he believed the automaker’s adjustment should have been applied to all vehicles affected though even that would not fix the problem, USA Today reports.

These revelations came during a lawsuit General Motors settled in 2013 involving the 2010 death of a Georgia woman driving one of the Chevy Cobalts in question. According to her estate’s attorney, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ought to get involved immediately.

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