U.S. safety regulators have begun a probe into General Motors’ response to a safety defect that caused 13 deaths, a series of recalls the automaker now admits wasn’t “robust” enough.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been advised by the maker that it actually knew of the problem for as much as a decade but only this month ordered a recall of nearly 800,000 cars – more than doubling that figure with a second recall announced this week. Should GM be found to have broken federal regulations, the maker could face a fine of up to $35 million. But it is also facing legal action related to crashes caused by the defect.
NHTSA says it wants “to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls.” Federal regulations give a manufacturer only a short window to respond once it learned of a potential safety defect. The chronology of events the maker provided this week suggests that may not have happened, having first learned of the problem in 2004. The maker learned of the first fatal crash by 2007.
“The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been,” GM North America President Alan Batey acknowledged in an unusually candid statement. “Today’s GM is committed to doing business differently and better.”