So far, at least 13 deaths have been linked to a defective ignition switch in General Motors vehicles. In response, G.M. has recalled 2.6 million of its cars. However, the manufacturer stops short of recommending drivers park their cars until repairs are made to correct the defect.
Evidence suggests that G.M. executives were aware of the faulty ignition switch long before they warned drivers. More shockingly, new revelations suggest that engineers may have even taken steps to hide the problem.
Mark Hood is an engineer hired by the family of a deceased Georgia woman to investigate the cause of her fatal 2010 crash. The black box in Brooke Melton’s Cobalt indicated that the ignition switch in her car failed at the time of the accident. Mr. Hood was determined to figure out why. To view the makeup of the switch, Mr. Hood purchased a replacement. He discovered that the identification numbers on both the new ignition switch and the one in Ms. Melton’s car matched, but the actual parts did not.
Automakers commonly improve parts. But typically, when a manufacturer alters a motor vehicle part, it changes the product’s ID number to reflect that the models are different. As Mr. Hood delved deeper into his investigation, he discovered that sometime between 2006 and 2007 the part had been significantly altered. A letter dated April 2006 in which a G.M. engineer approved the alteration to the switch’s design confirmed that the company likely knew about the defects and sought to rectify the problem quietly.
Sadly, Ms. Melton’s life might have been spared had G.M. placed its customers’ safety first. Only after more than a dozen people died did the problem become too public to ignore.
In a March 31st notice to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, G.M. announced that certain models of the following vehicles are subject to recall:
Chevrolet, Cobalt, 2010
Chevrolet, HHR, 2009-2010
Chevrolet, Malibu, 2004-2006 and 2008-2009
Chevrolet, Malibu Maxx, 2004-2006
Pontiac, G6, 2005-2006 and 2008-2009
Saturn, Aura, 2008-2009
Saturn, Ion, 2004-2007