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The 2006 Saturn Ion is one of the models among the GM v... The 2006 Saturn Ion is one of the models among the GM vehicles recalled for a deadly ignition-switch problem. (Photo courtesy GM).
Federal safety investigators put General Motors under a microscope earlier this week, asking the troubled automaker 107 detailed questions about its decade-long delay in recalling cars with a deadly defect. Now, it may be the federal government's turn to face questions.

The Center for Auto Safety, one of the nation's leading automotive safety organizations, wants to know why federal regulators failed to act even though they had knowledge of the ignition-switch problem since 2007.

In a letter sent this morning, Clarence Ditlow, the organization's president, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration not only failed to protect motorists, but charged it kept details of its preliminary inquiries secret and "effectively helped GM cover up this defect."

"While GM bears completely responsibility for failing to recall these vehicles by 2005, when it knew what the defect was and how to fix it, NHTSA has responsibility for failing to order a recall by early 2007," Ditlow wrote. "... People died and the agency shares responsibility for their deaths with GM."

Although documents show General Motors knew about the dangerous ignition switch problem in 2004, the company did not recall any vehicles until February, when GM announced it would recall more than 1.37 million vehicles, including certain models of the Chevrolet Cobalt and Chevrolet HHR, the Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky and Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Solstice.

So far, 13 deaths and 31 crashes have been attributed to the problem, in which the ignition switch inadvertently moves from the "run" to "accessory" position, and cuts power to both the engine and airbags.

Could the death toll grow? The Center for Auto Safety says NHTSA received at least 51 reports of death claims from GM via its Early Warning Reporting system between 2004 and 2012. Federal investigators sought more information in at least 29 of the 51 reports, including 17 records prior to a meeting in 2007.

On March 29 of that year, NHTSA investigators and GM representatives met to discuss a crash that killed a 16-year-old Maryland girl whose airbags did not deploy in a 2005 Cobalt.

Details from that meeting are unknown, but following it, NHTSA stopped seeking more information about similar crashes. Prior to 2007, NHTSA sent GM inquiries on 90 percent of crashes submitted to the Early Warning Report system; after 2007, the agency sought more information in only 38 percent of deadly cases, according to the Center for Auto Safety.

"Americans need NHTSA's Early Warning Reporting system to actually provide early warnings, instead of just a rear-view mirror look into what has already gone wrong," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Friday. "If NHTSA won't take action to greatly increase public disclosure of information related to potential safety defects, I will introduce legislation ensuring that it does so."

Former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook echoed Markey's displeasure with the agency she used to lead. On Friday, she sent a letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation asking for an independent investigation into NHTSA's failure to require a recall.

"No one is evaluating why NHTSA failed to carry out the law," she said. "I am asking you to undertake a full evaluation of this failure, taking into consideration the overt secrecy the agency now imposes on most of its defect investigation work so that the public is deterred from pressing the agency to act."

Earlier this week, Claybrook called upon new General Motors CEO Mary Barra to send a recall notice to consumers that underscores the severity of the ignition-switch problem.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.


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  • 27 Comments
      KBergy74
      • 11 Months Ago
      This seems to happen in every sector. I'm not defending GM but this was almost 10 years ago with different management. Ford still has a lot of the same people that were part of the Firestorm recall. That killed around 200 people. The Toyota mess wasn't treated nearly as severe as GM is being treated now. GM's management was a mess 10 years ago. It has gotten much better and GM is presently building the safest, most durable vehicles in the world. They are the quality leader right now. A lot of these cases are driver error just like they were with the Firestone recall. The taxpayers lost around 10 billion on the bailout but the tax payers have raked in more than triple that in tax revenue because the company continued to function. So far we are way ahead. In fact the only company that owes us money right now is FORD. They received 6 billion at the same time but got the government to call it a loan which they used to help get themselves through the recession. They have until 2022 to pay it back. All we do in America anymore is build automobiles. We can't let that slip away or we'll have nothing. This country used to be a producing country and it's turning into a consuming country. We need to build in the US.
      buckeye3118
      • 11 Months Ago
      Typical of the 'too big to fail' Government Motors. PopStar MESSiah to the rescue!!!
        sam54ct
        • 11 Months Ago
        @buckeye3118
        Bush designed TARP, not Obama, he was the guy who allowed the bailout to go forward.
          sksnyder25
          • 11 Months Ago
          @sam54ct
          Bush Not only allowed it to go forward but required NO accountability from the banks. Obama DID require accountabiility from the banks when he gave them money.
      posthuf
      • 11 Months Ago
      obama's baby here, OF COURSE they delayed any negative impact! And HONEST media wouldn't even have to ask that question.
        sam54ct
        • 11 Months Ago
        @posthuf
        Read the article, the data was known in 2007, two years before Obama. That said, you bet the Feds Bush/Obama delayed the investigation given the companie swere on the verge of failing.
          jccalcourt
          • 11 Months Ago
          @sam54ct
          It must have been Bush's fault for the NSA spying. IRS targeting conservatives, Benghazi, Fast & Furious snafus, bailouts of Chrysler, GM, 123, Fiskar, etc.
        sksnyder25
        • 11 Months Ago
        @posthuf
        Geoge Bush was president in 2007 NOT Obama.
        franklinjefferson
        • 11 Months Ago
        @posthuf
        What do you not understand about 2007 and 2008? Obama didn't take office until 2009. If it's a president's "baby" then both Bush and Obama would share the blame.
      mikco99
      • 11 Months Ago
      Have any of you seen all the junk people put on their key chains? The weight of all those other keys, discount tags, and just plain crap that are on them, make them weigh more than any tumbler should have to support. There should be a warning about that, not blaming the manufacturer for not foreseeing this problem.
      Jackie Simon
      • 1 Year Ago
      For all your used car needs, visit http://usedcarpricesguide.com, the one stop shop.
      TTigerLilyx2
      • 11 Months Ago
      Well, no lives were lost but the Ford fiasco with recalled plastic manifold covers cost alot of people a ton of money. The Police and Highway Patrol seemed to be the only ones notified of the manifold failure and Dealers couldn't fix their cars fast enough. Guess that saved taxpayers repairs, but, highlights the FACT that they knew there was a real problem and didn't take action in time to save people like me being out thousands in repairs. My car still isn't right, the overheating really affected the computer and prematurely aged many expensive parts. Chevy did the same with the gas tanks that exploded and caught fire, now I wonder what will be done about the new Fiat with its low safety rating. Profits over people, all of them. Then, not being notified of the class action suite in time to try and get some of that money back really frosted my cake! The Dealers played us all, raking in the cash to fix the problem, but, even though I purchased my car there, had repairs and maintenance done, when it came time to 'notify' me of Fords responsibility to cover those costs it was a whole new story. They STILL send me offers for oil changes, but couldn't find me for the recall notice!
      stengernc
      • 11 Months Ago
      It is all about money and stock market price, not about customer protection. Greed is destroying this nation and republicans are helping it along.
        jrb359
        • 11 Months Ago
        @stengernc
        This is what you get with a big, bloated, intrusive, corrupt, self -serving, and inefficient government that the Progressive liberals want! The Democrats are nothing more than lying, decieveing, tax and spending politicians that live and breath to take money from the working class!
          TTigerLilyx2
          • 11 Months Ago
          @jrb359
          Wow, trollville is sure hitting the boards today! Nice to know at least they have a job, but wonder what they get paid per hour to sell our country out??? jrb, FACT CHECK ol Ronnie Reagan if you REALLY want to see ' lying, deceiving, tax and spending politicians that live and breath to take money from the working class'. It was HE and his masters who stole hundreds of millions from Social Security, and left an IOU! STILL hasn't been paid back. Otherwise, Social Security would be the most profitable project in Washington. Thats why the repugs want to get their greedy, sweaty little paws on it and the USPS.
          jrb359
          • 11 Months Ago
          @jrb359
          TTiger-How much did your president steal from medicare to put into obamacare? No matter how many lies they tell you, no matter how much debt they put us in, no matter how much they waste money, and could care less about the American people, you and others like you will be there supporting them!
          sksnyder25
          • 11 Months Ago
          @jrb359
          This happened in 2007 BEFORE Obama's time so your post is utter nonsense unless you change it to read this is what Conservatives want and the Republicans are nothing more than lying, deceiving tax spending politicans that live and breathe to take money from the working class while giving welfare to companies earning billions of dollars each month.
          TTigerLilyx2
          • 11 Months Ago
          @jrb359
          jrb...OUR President didn't do anything different than a Repub from Massachusetts did when he implemented universal Healthcare in that State, Obama just did it on a HUGE scale. The REAL problem here is not with THEM but with US because we sit around all complacent...this is America, we're number 1, the best, we have laws etc. Like lambs to slaughter, to eager to buy in to the sports mentality of 'us' vs 'them'. We have about all the laws we need to protect out Nation, but they are ALL utterly USELESS without someone willing to enforce them. I'm tired of he said she said.. lets ALL ask why no one is enforcing truth in political (or medical) advertising, why our strongest protection agencies ( Supreme Court, FDA, EPA, CDC, NSA, ATF etc) why these agencies can be tampered with by ANY political party or powerful person. Why has nearly every whistle-blower program been dismantled and ignored, to the point that OUR environment is endangered, women in the Service are raped, for Gods sake, by Officers and Servicemen? Mercenaries for the oil industry can run amok, killing, and leaving our Service people to die from the hatred THEY left behind! Dangerous drugs are released for profit, while desperately needed antibiotic research languishes. WE are fed more antibiotics thru eating meat than from our doctors, yet this cheaper way of forcing animal production goes unchecked! There are alot of questions you need to be asking yourself jrb, not just blowing the same tired old party rhetoric. Its not about your party or mine, its about right and wrong and our way of life being destroyed as a damn GAME to these filthy rich monsters. Everyone not Native to this Continent came here to get away from this unfair, impossible tyranny, suffered, fought and died in order to have a chance to be more, build more, for our families. And its all being dismantled and taken away, piece by piece while voters squabble like dogs over a bone. I'm going to quote a song here, and ask you to ask your party: 'what have you done for me lately'????
      TTigerLilyx2
      • 11 Months Ago
      jrb359 I should by now know better than to try and talk logic with trollz. On the plus side, every encounter gives me the chance to answer your bs generic' libs Pres Dems etc to blame for all ills', with logic and facts. Thank you! The fact is, your not interested in doing anything productive for this Country, your just paid to stir dissent and cause trouble, being the problem, and not a giving a damn about a solution. So shameful. But I guess sociopaths have to eat too, and these days even crappy, traitorous, evil sowing jobs are hard to come by.
        jrb359
        • 11 Months Ago
        @TTigerLilyx2
        You need help. Do you know how much $17.4 trillion is? Maybe the Dems should cut back on spending and not look for ways to fleece the working class. Do you know how many people are unemployed? All the president has to do is remove some of the regulations on business's and repeal obamacare so as employers can hire over the 50 employee limit without cutting their hours. How many times has Obama said he was going to focus on jobs? If the president knew how to fix the economy, wouldn't he have done it by now? Lastly, stop with the divisiveness, lies, and blaming everyone else for his failures. Problem solved, but it won't happen!
      rivers360
      • 11 Months Ago
      Not a problem. Obama will handle this. All claims will be paid using government (our) money. Have not one fear!
      rwitchwoman63
      • 11 Months Ago
      Of course the Fed knew about it how could they not....and Gee right after Obammy gave them billions of dollars too....Should have let GM fold and go into bankruptcy!!!....Look how many lives have been destroyed by their greed!
        franklinjefferson
        • 11 Months Ago
        @rwitchwoman63
        The Fed knew about it in 2007 and 2008... BEFORE Obama became president. It doesn't excuse his administration... but it wasn't just "Obammy". By the way... what is the point of saying Obammy? What are you, seven?
        TTigerLilyx2
        • 11 Months Ago
        @rwitchwoman63
        rwitch, this has zip to do with Obama, so give it a rest. There's a reason we have Presidents, and not Emperors, ok? If he were all powerful, America would be thriving again by now. He's not perfect, (and that should warm your heart because then he would be competing with the only man who ever was) but he is trying to help ALL of us, not just a handful of special interests. Stop buying into the divide and conquer crap, the conservative repugs are the puppets for corporate greed, stealing the entire Nations wealth for their pleasure. You need to wake up and do some research on FACTS, and not just fall into the partyline spiel that's so much easier than getting off your butt and researching more than the conspiracy quackery that passes for facts with the anti-Obama nutjobs. Read a little history on the Robber barons, the first Great Depression, etc. You wont, of course. Sheeple like you are what got us BACK in this mess after many good politicians and citizens fought to get us out of poverty after the depression and the Wars. Thanks for nothing.
          jrb359
          • 11 Months Ago
          @TTigerLilyx2
          Let me see if I got this right! Business's all greedy, Republicans are on the take from business's and Obama and the Dems are trying to right the wrongs. You MUST be a liberal! Poor people have been voting for Democrats for 60 years and they're STILL poor.47million collecting food stamps, 1 in 6 lives below the poverty level, a debt of $17.4 trillion, unemployment is really in the teens, we have a president that lies, and blames others, and then there is Obamacare where over 6 million people have lost their healthcare. Some are paying higher premiums and deductables. It was good of the president though, by making the 31st change to the job killing law, and delaying the employer mandate. This way when people get lay offs and have their hours cut back, people like Pelosi can remind them that they now have more time to spend with their family and can learn to paint! 72% of Americans feel we are headed in the wrong direction. The other 28% must be delusional!
          mikco99
          • 11 Months Ago
          @TTigerLilyx2
          I wish I could give you more than just a thumbs up. Excellent post.
          posthuf
          • 11 Months Ago
          @TTigerLilyx2
          TT, there IS a reason we have presidents, and they take an Oath of Office to UPHOLD our Constitution. ob has done everything he can to get around our Constitution. That is why half this nation is being supported by the other half. How long do you think THAT'S going to last!
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