The years-long silence over a faulty ignition switch responsible for 13 deaths and a recall of 1.6 million vehicles made between 2003 and 2007 is about to take a greater toll on General Motors executives as federal investigations, lawsuits and penalties loom over the horizon.
Automotive News reports General Motors’ response to the flaw may be too little, too late for the automaker. Though GM North America president Alan Batey proclaimed last week that GM would take an “unflinching look… and apply lessons learned” from their internal investigation over the lack of action and resulting silence regarding the ignition switch, former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator and former consumer group Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook said the apology was all for naught:
That was a desperate move on their part to avoid heavy penalties. Saying ‘we’re sorry’ is not enough.
NHTSA announced they would be investigating the issue and its handling, and could issue as much as $35 million in fines. Meanwhile, Atlanta attorney Lance Cooper believes GM may be trying to get out in front of a lawsuit related to the ignition flaw by issuing the recall last month. Cooper recently settled a related lawsuit on behalf of the estate of Brooke Melton — whose 2010 death in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt was the result of the switch cutting off engine power — for undisclosed terms:
I know a lot of good people at GM, and I know that GM is trying to turn itself around. But this is a black eye for the company, because of what they knew for so long and didn’t do anything about.