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General Motors Ignition Switch Problem May be the “Godzilla” of Auto Defect Litigation

An auto manufacturer should never be allowed to endanger the public.  If an automobile manufacturer does not follow safety rules and guidelines then victims should be entitled to compensation.

Over the last few weeks, a “little story” has been revealed about behaviors of various General Motors employees who committed wrongful acts that needlessly harmed and killed members of the public.  Today, millions of allegedly defective General Motors vehicles remain on the road increasing the risk of injury, death, and damage to consumers.

The General Motors safety defect has been linked to at least 13 deaths in a recall involving close to 3 million vehicles.  Evidence has indicated that General Motors was well aware of the ignition system defects in its vehicles going as far back as 2005.  However, engineers and corporate executives decided not to properly address the problem due to the fact it would cost too much money and take too long seemingly placing more concern on shareholders’ returns and bottom line profitability than consumer safety.

As an automobile product liability lawyer who has litigated numerous auto product defects cases for close to three and a half decades, I think I speak for many in stating that safety should never be an option and should never triumph corporate profitability.

Discovery and Explanation of the Auto Defect

Unfortunately, the problem was discovered when GM was losing billions of dollars and on the path to bankruptcy.  In 2005, GM announced plans to close nine factories and cut 30,000 jobs  – which were at the same time the first death related to the faulty ignition switch problem occurred. Consumer safety advocates opined that General Motors may have developed a very cozy relationship with regulators as it appears that government officials knew and GM knew that there were problems with injuries and deaths with the faulty ignition switches.

In 2007 despite the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s awareness of the problem, no investigation was launched.  In fact, evidence reveals that despite knowledge maintained by GM engineers and their corporate executives, the automaker continued to place products on the road with a reckless and tragic indifference to human well-being.  If in fact, General Motors placed sufficient value on the well-being of consumers, they would have recalled the vehicles and implemented a fix to the problem to make the cars safer.  A company that cares about well-being doesn’t skimp on safety by failing to recall or replace an inexpensive part that they knew was problematic, defective, and leading to accidents and death.

In fact, the cost to change out the ignition switch for a safety switch would have added approximately $1.00 to the cost of each vehicle according to internal General Motors documents provided to U.S. Congressional investigators.  Congresswoman Diana DeGette cited a GM 2005 document noting a cost of $.57 per fix.  Reuters reported that they had obtained a series of 2005 emails between GM engineers debating whether to make a change to the ignition switch which would have cost an extra $.90 per unit and additional tooling costs of $400,000.00 which could have typically been amortized over several years.

A company that cares about the well-being of consumers doesn’t skimp by not replacing a dollar or less part that they knew was defective.  There is no moral or legal excuse for such outrageous corporate behavior.

The Consequences of GM’s Ignition Switch Defect

The auto defect law firm of The Reiff Law Firm has been involved with ignition and airbag defect claims for decades and addressed these issues years before it came to the public forefront on what may turn out to be the “Godzilla” of auto defect claims.

Vehicles affected by potential ignition switch related incidents are identified as Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR’s, Pontiac Solstice, and G5s, and Saturn Sky.

As an auto product defect lawyer, I believe that the public should be outraged and GM must be held accountable due to the fact that evidence indicates that someone at GM had known about this potentially fatal defect for as long as the situation existed.  Even if one does not operate a General Motors vehicle, the fact that this defect was allowed to remain in a production line for so long affects nearly everyone on the highway who drives or shares the road with cars not to mention those who unknowingly rented GM vehicles.

The recall started in February 2014 with an announcement of 178,000 vehicles and has since been expanded to close to another 3 million cars for other issues.  The cars affected at present are 2.6 million Saturn Ions 2003-2007, Chevrolet Cobalt 2005-2010, Chevrolet HHR 2006-2011, Pontiac G5 2007-2010, Pontiac Solstice 2006-2010, and Saturn Sky 2007-2010.

Personal Injury Lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm Have Experience with Auto Defect Cases

In a footnote, General Motors has also recalled another 3 million vehicles this year for other unrelated issues involving steering defects, side airbag wiring defects, instrument panel defects, axle defects, and anti-lock brake defects.  It is unconscionable that it took 10 years between the time that General Motors discovered the problem with the ignition switch and its decision to recall approximately 3 million vehicles that are on our highways presenting dangers to unknowing and innocent consumers.

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