General Motors Apologizes for Acting Too Slowly in Recall of 1.6 Million Vehicles

A new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2003. The Cobalt is one of several GM models the company is recalling to fix an issue with the ignition switch that has caused some cars to accidentally shut off, leading to fatal crashes. (Nick UT / Associated Press)
A new 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt is displayed at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2003. The Cobalt is one of several GM models the company is recalling to fix an issue with the ignition switch that has caused some cars to accidentally shut off, leading to fatal crashes. (Nick UT / Associated Press)

In a rare public apology, General Motors acknowledged Tuesday that it may have reacted too slowly to a safety issue linked to 13 deaths.

The delayed response could potentially cost GM tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determines the automaker neglected to inform regulators.

The NHTSA is also facing criticism for not demanding that GM act more quickly to recall more than 1.6 million vehicles.

The recall is linked to the cars’ ignition switches, which GM says can be accidentally turned from the “run” position to the “accessory” position while the car is being driven. When this happens, the engine shuts off and safety systems — including power steering, anti-lock brakes, and airbags — are disabled.

This has led to at least 31 crashes and at least 13 front-seat fatalities in the U.S., GM said.

“We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can,” GM’s North America President Alan Batey said in a statement.

This public acknowledgment of an oversight is extremely rare for a international corporation like GM.

“I haven’t seen GM apologize since they apologized to Ralph Nader in 1966,” said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “It’s a huge deal.”

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SOURCE: David Undercoffler 
The Los Angeles Times

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