An article in The New York Times states that General Motors misled customers about ignition defects in the months and years after they had already established that the switches were dangerous and defective.
The report states that nearly five years ago, engineers at GM knew without a doubt that the ignition switches in Chevy Cobalts and other models were defective and posed the risk of a serious injury crash.
They confirmed this as a fact in May 2009.
But, in the months and years that followed, GM continued to tell accident victims’ families and other customers that it did not have enough evidence of any defect in their cars.
Last month, the automaker recalled 1.6 million Cobalts and other small cars saying that if the switch was bumped or weighed down, it could shut off the engine’s power and disable the airbags.
Blowing Off Victims’ Families?
In one case, GM even threatened to go after the family of an accident victim for reimbursement of legal fees if the family did not withdraw its lawsuit.
In another instance, it brushed off a family’s claims with a “terse, formulaic letter.”
The Times talked to the family of 23-year-old Amy Kosilla who died in a Cobalt accident in March 2010 when her airbags failed to deploy. GM dismissed them as they had many other customers.
Since the engineers’ meeting in May 2009, at least 23 fatal crashes have involved the recalled models, resulting in 26 deaths.
GM’s actions relating to these ignition recalls are already the subject of a NHTSA probe and a criminal investigation.
Meanwhile GM’s CEO Mary Barra faces Congress next week when she will have to explain how the top brass at the biggest U.S. automaker can say they knew nothing for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch when in fact they did know.
Lawmakers are trying to find out whom to blame for the lack of responsiveness by GM to the tragedies and this multi-year delay in recalling potentially dangerous vehicles off the roads.
It is ridiculous that the company is still not commenting on why the decision to recall took as long as it did. Apparently, they are “still investigating.”
Our hearts go out to the families of the victims who were not only dismissed by GM, but also bullied. All these families wanted were answers to what took their loved one away.
GM treated these families with contempt and disrespect instead of admitting their mistake, asking for an apology and offering them a fair settlement. It seems to us that GM would rather spend millions in penalties and legal defense costs than doing the right thing.
An auto defects attorney is imperative in these situations to protect victims and force auto manufactures to change their priorities of profit over safety.