In May 2014, GM paid $35 million to the Department of Transportation in civil penalties and agreed to three years of monitoring. That was followed in 2015 with a $900 million fine from Department of Justice. Part of the terms of the fine meant that GM had a federal overseer with access to employees, records, and meetings.
It was found that GM installed faulty ignition switches in millions of vehicles. If the key became loose, the car could shut off and airbags deactivate. With the engine off, other features like power steering and power brakes were gone, too. GM was aware of the problem for years before issuing a recall. In the end, almost 30 million vehicles were recalled worldwide. 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries have been linked to these faulty switches.
Now that the terms of NHTSA's oversight are over, GM wants to set up a new relationship with the agency. The voluntary system would give the government less control, though GM says it would like to form "a positive and productive relationship" with the agency.