General Motors has agreed to pay a fine of $35 million to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for delaying a recall of 2.6 million vehicles
In those affected vehicles, which include the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and more, the ignition switch is prone to unintended key rotation, especially when there are other keys attached to the key ring adding weight. If this happens, the engine will turn off and the airbags will not deploy. There are at least 13 deaths and 32 crashes linked to the issue.
GM had early warning signs from engineers and even modified the switch to make it safer, but the company did not issue a recall until this year. GM first publicly admitted there was an issue in 2005.
This fine is the single highest civil penalty amount ever paid as a result of a NHTSA investigation looking into recall violations.
GM has also agreed to make “significant and widespread” changes to its internal safety review process and will allow NHTSA to have full access to the results of an internal review that is currently being conducted. In the first half of 2014, GM has already recalled over 12 million vehicles, a sign that the company is taking a more proactive approach to safety.
“GM has created a new group, the Global Product Integrity unit, to innovate our safety oversight,” said Jeff Boyer, vice president of Global Vehicle Safety. “We are encouraging and empowering our employees to raise their hands to address safety concerns through our Speak Up for Safety initiative and we have set new requirements for our engineers to attain Black Belt certification through Design for Six Sigma.”
Federal law requires automakers to report vehicle defects to NHTSA within five business days of identifying the problem.
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