On Thursday, General Motors chief executive Mary Barra said her company may recall more cars as GM deals with a series of safety problems that have resulted in the recall of 20 million cars, including small cars with defective ignition switches so far linked to 13 deaths and more than four dozen crashes.
“We’re going to continue to look at the data that we get, and we’re going to take the action that we need,” Barra said on NBC’s Today show, a day after GM issued the latest in a string of recalls, Reuters reports. This recall was for 33,000 Chevrolet Cruze sedans with potentially defective air bags.
Barra has been with GM for 30 years and became CEO in January of this year. This year to date, GM has issued 44 recalls covering about 20 million vehicles globally, according to Reuters. GM has been under scrutiny by Congress and by safety regulators over the ignition switch defect that led to the recall of Chevrolet Cobalts and other small GM models. Much of GM’s current trouble stems from the decade delay in recalling those cars.
By the end of 2004, GM engineers had concluded that a defect in the ignition would let the key to move out of the “run” position if the driver accidentally jostled the key or the key ring was too heavy. When the engine shuts off, the air bags are disabled, leaving front-seat occupants without possibly crucial safety protection in a crash. Despite continued reports of accidental engine shut-offs, GM took no action beyond issuing a technical service bulletin to dealers with the recommendation that car owners remove “unessential items” from key chains to lighten them. Michael Brownlee, a former associate administrator at National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) said the technical service bulletin “should have resulted in a priority investigation,” The New York Times reported. A recent lawsuit accused GM of fraud for not acknowledging that an engineer had signed off on a change to a part in the switch.
GM is working out details of a compensation program to resolve injury and death claims arising from the defective ignition switch. Reuters reports that eventual claims may extend well beyond the 13 deaths.