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A Timeline of the Steps that Led to the GM Recalls

By Orlando Personal Injury Attorney on May 30, 2014

Orlando personal injury lawyers have been closely monitoring developments in the events that led to General Motors’ worldwide recall of 2.6 million vehicles for ignition problems that have caused some GM vehicle to stall without warning. The sudden loss of power has led to many accidents that have claimed at least 13 lives over the last ten to twelve years. Numerous publications recently published a timeline of the events that led to the massive recall.

Notable moments of the timeline include:

  • 2001: During pre-production testing of GM’s Saturn Ion vehicles, engineers experience problems with ignition switches suddenly and unexpectedly shutting of power to vehicles. An internal GM memo reports that a new switch design has solved the problem.
  • 2003: A GM service technician observes a Saturn Ion stall while it is being driven with "several other keys on the key ring." The technician’s report says "the additional weight of the keys had worn out the ignition switch."
  • 2004: GM engineer accidentally bumps the key in a Chevrolet Cobalt during testing, causing the vehicle to lose power.
  • 2005: GM sees a sharp rise in reports of Chevrolet Cobalts losing power when keys are accidentally bumped or moved out of the "Run" position. GM engineers recommend a redesign to fix the problem, which is initially approved according to internal memos and then cancelled due to the costs of implementing the fix.
  • 2006: Delphi, the company than manufactures the switches, proposes an ignition design change. A lead GM engineer approves the change and the new part goes into production. However, the part number is not changed, so most employees are not made aware of the fix. GM dealers hand out "key inserts" to limit the key’s movement to 474 owners of models affected by a later recall.
  • 2007: Gm begins installing the redesigned switch on 2007 models. During a meeting with safety officials, GM personnel are alerted to a fatal 2005 Cobalt crash in which airbags did not deploy. GM learns of 10 more fatal Cobalt accidents in which airbags failed to deploy. After an internal investigation, GM engineers determine that in four of nine Cobalt crashes, the ignition was not in the "Run" position at the time of impact.
  • 2011: Safety officials launch a new investigation into Cobalts and Pontiac G5s where airbags did not deploy.
  • 2012: GM engineers notice all the crashes in which the ignition was switched out of "Run" only happened in cars from the 2007 model year and earlier.
  • 2013: GM investigators notice that ignition switches in cars built in later years are less prone to moving out of position than ignition switches in earlier models. GM hires independent engineers to conduct an investigation, who determine that changes were made to the ignition switch sometime after the cars initially went into production. A GM committee is convened to consider a recall of Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 cars from the 2007 model year and earlier.
  • 2014: GM initially announces a recall on around 800,000 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles. Shortly thereafter, GM adds 600,000 Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky vehicles to the recall. Later, GM expands its ignition recall to add 824,000 vehicles sold in the United States between 2008 and 2011. The recall now affects more than 2.6 million vehicles.

As an Orlando product liability attorney with nearly 40 years of experience, Mr. Cunningham has seen this pattern of denial and reluctance to correct dangerous design flaws many times. If you have suffered an injury or lost a family member in an accident caused by a defective product and you would like to learn more about your rights and legal options, call the Law Offices of James O. Cunningham at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) and schedule a free consultation.

James O. Cunningham

Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.

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