Did GM Delay Recall With Deadly Results? Problems Reported Years Ago

Chevy CobaltGeneral Motors recently recalled close to a million vehicles for a deadly problem that resulted in six deaths. The models involved were Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s from the 2005 through 2007 model years. The question is, why did NHTSA and GM wait so long to recall vehicles with a dangerous defect when the problems surfaced years ago?

Scouring the internet reveals many reported stalling incidents for the models in question. My particular Google search went back to 2009 and unearthed disturbing evidence that GM did not properly address issues with faulty vehicles. While the vehicles were manufactured by the “old” version of GM, “new” GM certainly would have been aware of the problems as far back as 2009. Following is an exchange from a forum that ran during the 2009 time period. A poster named Matt eerily references the problem on a Chevy Cobalt chat room on February 1st, 2009 with this:

I was driving between 65 and 70 yesterday when the engine and steering seemed to loose power. My radio continued to work, along with my headlights. But both the Tac and Speedo plummeted to 0 without warning, while still in gear and hitting the gas did nothing.

Thankfully I was able to brake but the blinkers didn’t even work, so I had to make a quick and safe exit to the shoulder. I put it in Park, shut it off and started it back up. I have less than 30,000 miles, so it is under warranty but I am in no mood to be told there is nothing wrong with the vehicle. Cars this young don’t shut off for no reason.

Mark44004 wrote in April of 2009:

My wife’s 06 has done this twice. There was discussion about too much weight on the keyring while being in the ignition. The key must shift slightly and causing a ground out of safety shutdown?? Both times this made sense. My wife had a bazillion keys on her key ring the first time. The second time she put the key on a small change purse but she had a lot of change in it. Now there is 1 key and it’s on a small plastic key ring thing. So far so good. GM says they don’t have any bulletins on this issue.

Mark’s comment regarding wighted key chains confirms that GM knew exactly what caused the stalling back in April of 2009. Jenn chimed in that same month with:

My Cobalt went out like that while I was doing 70 MPH in the fast lane the gas quit working… lucky it was dark out so I could safely get to the side of the road since there were not many cars on the highway I sat on the side of the highway by myself until a police officer came to sit behind me while we waited 30-45 minutes for a tow truck.

The list of reports goes on and on. Why did it take six deaths and four years for GM to address the problem?

GM can try to play its political games and attempt to explain away its unethical response to a deadly problem with its vehicles, but regardless of when the models were manufactured, New GM had the responsibility of recalling the cars as soon as they became aware of the problem. The proof is out there that this issue was being discussed years ago.

NHTSA has also failed in its role to protect motorists in America. Did the crony relationship between GM and the Obama Administration lead to a cover-up of the deadly problem? When a company like GM becomes so politically important, the possibility that NHTSA was involved in the delay can not be dismissed.

One of the most important questions that I have not seen answered is, when did the six deaths of those involved in the accidents of recalled vehicles occur? It is reprehensible that GM has already made statements that alcohol was involved in some of the deaths. GM had the responsibility to recall vehicles with dangerous known problems, regardless of speculation as to what else was involved with the accidents.

Criticism of unethical behavior of companies like GM often goes ignored. The corporation has powerful allies in the Obama Administration and spends billions of dollars advertising on TV networks that are then hesitant to bite the hand that feeds them. This latest lapse of morality was not limited to only financial damage to taxpayers or bondholders. Six people are dead and GM should answer the question as to why it took so long to address the deadly problems of its vehicles.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.