Because it failed to report information about the recent ignition switch defect in a timely manner to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), General Motors will pay a $35 million fine and participate in a review of its safety processes and policies to avoid situations like this in the future.
This $35 million fine is the maximum civil penalty that NHTSA is allowed to administer to auto manufacturers who violate recall regulations. Per federal law, all auto manufacturers must notify NHTSA within five days of finding a safety-related defect, and NHTSA’s timeliness investigation into the ignition switch defect determined that GM did not do so in this case. GM admitted in its agreement to pay the fine that it failed to report the defect, which involved 2.2 million vehicles, in time to comply with this law.
NHTSA had previously investigated data related to an issue with airbag deployment in Chevrolet Cobalt models in 2007 and 2010, but did not open a formal investigation due to a lack of data. GM then announced in February 2014 that it would recall certain vehicles for the ignition switch defect, but had failed to notify NHTSA of this defect when the vehicles were previously investigated.
Going forward, GM and NHTSA are working together to review its processes for reporting defects so that this will not happen again in the future. In a statement, GM vice president of Global Vehicle Safety Jeff Boyer said that GM has created a new Global Product Integrity group to focus on safety oversight issues, and has also created a Speak Up for Safety initiative. “We are working hard to improve our ability to identify and respond to safety issues,” Boyer said.
Even though GM has now agreed to pay the fine, the ignition recall is not yet over. Parts have begun arriving at dealers, but supply constraints mean that many owners are still waiting to have their vehicles repaired. GM did announce today that production of replacement parts is running seven days a week, with the goal to have enough parts by October to repair the majority of affected vehicles. In the meantime, GM is advising owners to remove vehicle keys from their keychains, and will provide a complimentary loaner vehicle to any owners who don’t feel comfortable driving their affected vehicles.