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GM reportedly knew of defect before recall

General Motors is dealing with a public relations nightmare after first announcing that it would be recalling more than 700,000 cars due to potential defect in the ignition system in many Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. Several news reports indicate that GM knew about the problem and failed to advise dealers and customers alike.

According to documents recovered by USA Today, the auto-making giant knew about how heavy key rings could potentially shut the car’s engine off while the car was in motion, which could disable the car’s airbags and the car’s anti-lock braking system and cause the driver to lose control of the car. The information was recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit involving a driver who bought a 2005 Chevy Cobalt and was killed when her keys slipped out of the ignition. 

GM reportedly created a cover that would prevent the problem from happening, but the car involved in the fatal crash did not receive it. Moreover, GM’s technical service bulletin did not tell dealers to install the covers, and it did not alert buyers to the problem either. Instead, the bulletin only mentioned the cover as an “improvement” and not an actual fix to the problem.

Auto manufacturers have a continuing duty to inform consumers about defects that could put them in danger, and to correct them as well. If such a defect leads to an accident (and subsequent injuries), the manufacturer could be held liable. With the recall, GM is trying to avoid continuing issues with the affected vehicles, even though they have not been sold in a number of years. 

Source: USA “Lawsuit: GM knew of Cobalt ignition problem,” James R. Healey and Fred Meier, Feb. 19, 2014

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