Despite General Motors having evidence of an ignition switch failure in many of its vehicles for nearly ten years, a recall spanning 1.6 million of its vehicles was not initiated until February 2014, shortly after lawsuits against the automaker were filed. According to deposition transcripts discovered as a result of these lawsuits, in 2004, a GM engineer test driving one of the affected models experienced the failure that is the subject of the recall.GM did not report this to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as they are required to do within five days if a failure related to safety is detected, because they believed it was not safety related.
The ignition switch failure allows a key in the “on” position of a vehicle to be unintentionally moved to an “off” or “accessory” position rendering the airbags, brakes, and steering of the vehicle offline. At this time, 13 deaths and over 30 motor vehicle accidents are being attributed to this ignition switch failure across the country. Attorney involvement in this public safety matter seems to be spurring the widening scope of the GM recall but has prompted lawmakers in Washington to make public “early warning” accident data reported to the NHTSA by automakers.