Feds Fine GM $28K for Incomplete Response to Questions in Ignition-Switch Recall | Edmunds

Feds Fine GM $28K for Incomplete Response to Questions in Ignition-Switch Recall


Just the Facts:
  • The federal government imposed a $28,000 fine on General Motors on Tuesday for failing to fully respond to questions about the recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches.
  • "GM did not respond to over a third of the requests in the special order by the April 3 deadline," wrote Kevin Vincent, the chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a letter to GM.
  • GM told Edmunds it "has produced nearly 21,000 documents totaling over 271,000 pages through a production process that spans a decade and over 5 million documents from 75 individual custodians and additional sources."

WASHINGTON — The federal government imposed a $28,000 fine on General Motors on Tuesday for failing to fully respond to questions about the recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know if GM failed to provide timely information that could have resulted in a faster recall.

"GM did not respond to over a third of the requests in the special order by the April 3 deadline," wrote Kevin Vincent, the chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a letter to GM.

NHTSA said it demands a civil penalty of $28,000, the statutory maximum of $7,000 a day for each day following the April 3 deadline in which GM failed to fully respond to 107 questions.

"This penalty demand will continue to accrue by $7,000 for each additional day in which NHTSA does not receive a complete response," Vincent wrote. "To be clear, a complete response by GM means GM fully and substantively answers all questions and produces all responsive documents."

NHTSA said if GM does not fully respond it may refer the matter to the U.S. Justice Department to sue GM to demand answers and payment.

GM told Edmunds in a statement that it "has produced nearly 21,000 documents totaling over 271,000 pages through a production process that spans a decade and over 5 million documents from 75 individual custodians and additional sources.

"Even NHTSA recognizes the breadth of its inquiry and has agreed, in several instances with GM, to a rolling production schedule of documents past the April 3 deadline. We believe that NHTSA shares our desire to provide accurate and substantive responses. We will continue to provide responses and facts as soon as they become available and hope to go about this in a constructive manner. We will do so with a goal of being accurate as well as timely."

GM will replace ignition switches in 2.6 million cars after reports of 13 deaths and 31 crashes. The defective ignition switch can affect the safe operation of the airbag systems, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The recalled GM vehicles include:

  • All 2005-'10 Chevrolet Cobalts
  • 2005-'07 Pontiac G5
  • 2003-'07 Saturn Ion
  • 2006-'11 Chevrolet HHR
  • 2006-'10 Pontiac Solstice
  • 2007-'10 Saturn Sky

NHTSA noted that "many of the requests to which GM failed to respond by the April 3 deadline are not technical engineering questions."

They include whether there were any other changes to the defective ignition switch beyond an April 2006 change that was made without a change in the part number.

"These are basic questions concerning information that is surely readily available to GM at this time," Vincent wrote. "It is deeply troubling that two months after recalling the vehicles, GM is unwilling or unable to tell NHTSA whether the design of the switch changed at any other time."

GM is in the midst of an ongoing internal investigation into the recall. Two congressional committees held hearings about the timeliness of the recall last week.

Repairs to the recalled vehicles begin this week, but the process to fix all cars may take as long as six months.

Edmunds says: The fine is seen as largely symbolic, but it indicates that the feds are getting impatient with GM.

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