It appears that the massive recall General Motors recently issued is only the tip of the iceberg when considering the widespread liability it could be subject to. The recall involves hundreds of thousands of Chevy Cobalts built between 2005 and 2007, along with Pontiac G5s built in 2007. The defect involved the ignition switch in the cars, where the key could potentially fall out of the steering column if it was weighed down by a heavy key chain.
If this occurs, it could potentially shut off the engine, cut the car’s power steering module, disable the airbags and cut off the car’s anti-lock braking systems. According to USA Today, GM knew about nearly two dozen accidents involving this defect, and six people had been killed in such accidents prior to the recall.
However, new reports have surfaced indicating that GM knew about the ignition problem as early as 2004. According to documents recovered by USA Today in the midst of a wrongful death suit against the automaker, at least one GM engineer encountered the problem when testing the vehicle prior to it going on sale. Also, GM reportedly advised dealers to install a snap-on key cover that would mitigate the problem if owners complained about it. However, the automaker did not advise dealers of the potential dangers that could come about due to the problem, nor did it encourage dealers to advise customers of the possibility that the key may come out of the ignition.
It remains to be seen whether this revelation will lead to more lawsuits.
Source: USA Today.com “Lawsuit: GM knew of Cobalt ignition problem,” James R. Healey and Fred Meier, Feb. 19, 2014