New information has shed more light on General Motors Company's defective ignition switches that have caused at least twelve deaths (some reports say as many as nineteen deaths) and what could be hundreds of injuries. In a recent uncovering, it was found that engineering managers at the multi-billion dollar, bailed out automobile conglomerate were well aware of the problems with the 2005 Cobalt series. Reports say that the engineers knew that the ignition switch problems could lead to disabled power steering mechanisms, failing power brakes, and inoperable airbags, but that they decided to launch the car series anyway, according to a Wall Street Journal exposé.
An insider testified that board members and engineers came to the agreement that malfunctioning vehicles would eventually just safely coast off the road after they stalled while he was being questioned during one of many civil lawsuits against GM that arose from the death of one of its consumers.
General Motors was forced to recall at least 1.6 million vehicle types because of the ignition switches. In addition to the Cobalt series, GM also had to recall the Chevy HHR, Saturn Ion, Saturn Sky, Pontiac Sky, and Pontiac G5. We initially reported on these recalls in a post on 27 February 2014, but the new information about GM's knowledge of the problems prior to roll-out exponentially adds to the company's negligence and immorality.
The suit in which the knowledge of GM's awareness of these problems came out was one wherein the driver reached top speeds of about 50 mph, her ignition failed, and airbags did not deploy because the vehicle had shut down seconds before the accident. Those who were lucky enough to survive one of these scary situations reported to the National Vehicle Safety Administration (NVSA) that they experienced similar circumstances, but were not in the same danger as the woman who died, and that they were able to steer and eventually brake, although it was extremely difficult under such conditions. However, during litigation of a 2013 case, a General Motors engineer told the court that the car company believed that drivers would be able to handle the vehicle without power steering once it shut down due to the faulty ignition switch.
To make matters worse, the component that General Motors designed to fix the problem was never designated a part number and therefore never reached many dysfunctional vehicles. The cost of these parts, parts that could have saved lives and kept people out of the hospital with life-threatening injuries, would have cost GM roughly 55-60 cents to manufacture and less than a half hour to replace.
But GM did leave a paper trail. The company sent out a service bulletin to dealers across the country that detailed the issue in 2005. Four years later, in May of 2009, company engineers discovered that information from the cars' "black boxes" provided confirmation that there was a potential defect in hundreds of thousands of GM's vehicles. In court, however, GM denied ever having this information.
Federal laws prohibit car companies, both foreign and domestic, from misleading United States safety controllers. This is a clear case of negligence, and the fact that General Motors and its highest echelon employees were aware of the problems before the vehicles' inception, makes people involved in these accidents more than qualified to file a lawsuit.