Federal investigators have launched a preliminary probe of the 2014 Chevrolet Impala following a report that the big sedan’s emergency braking system might activate without warning or driver input.
The probe comes as General Motors shakes up its internal product development system in a bid to catch potential safety problems as early as possible. GM is facing a number of separate investigations stemming from the handling of a recall now involving 2.6 million vehicles equipped with defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths.
On Wednesday, GM said it had notified 1.4 million U.S. motorists they could schedule repairs for vehicles covered by the ignition switch recall.
The latest investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was triggered by a complaint from a single driver who reported the emergency braking system in their 2014 Chevrolet Impala activated repeatedly while traveling at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. That led to the Impala being struck in the rear by another vehicle, though no injuries were reported.
Such preliminary investigations do not necessarily reveal actual safety defects, nor do they always lead to vehicle recalls. But industry observers stress that NHTSA, in particular, has been erring on the side of caution when receiving reports of possible safety issues, especially in the wake of the GM ignition switch problem. The agency’s acting administrator faced aggressive grilling during two days of House and Senate hearings that questioned whether NHTSA has been pro-active enough on ensuring vehicle safety.
(Barra defends GM’s handling of recall investigation. Click Here for the latest.)
General Motors completely redesigned the Chevy Impala for 2014 and has received numerous kudos for the vehicle, the influential Consumer Reports magazine citing it as one of the best sedans it has ever tested.
There are currently more than 60,000 of the new Impala sedans on U.S. roads.
Word of the new probe came as GM announced another shake-up in its product development system, its head of engineering “retiring,” with his job now split in two. That includes the creation of a new post designed to focus on ferreting out potential safety related problems.
GM previously put two senior engineers on paid leave due to their possible involvement in the ignition switch recall problem. The maker has acknowledged it first learned about the potential defect more than a decade before the vehicles were recalled, internal documents indicating that move was delayed because of questions about its cost.
GM today said it has notified 1.4 million motorists that they can contact dealers to have their ignition switches replaced, though they may have to wait for an appointment, the maker said in a statement, “depending on the busyness of a particular dealership.”
Letters went out last week to those owning 2003 to 2007 models including the Saturn Ion and Sky, Chevrolet Cobalt and HHR, Pontiac Solstice and G5. GM says it will follow up with owners of vehicles sold during the 2008 to 2011 model-years next month.
(Click Here for more on the appointment of GM’s new safety czar.)