General Motors has received reports of 13 deaths caused by an ignition-switch failure. GM’s Chief Executive says she is sorry.

Mary Barra, who took over the Detroit-based company in January, told Reuters the company will initiate a recall which will “take time to play out” and that GM will cooperate with the families involved.

The company has recalled more than 1.6 million vehicles to correct a problem where the engine may shut off due to a jarring event with the ignition. Unfortunately that means most of the electrical components are rendered useless including the engine, the brakes and the airbags. GM initially blamed the key ring weight that could jar the “run” position at the ignition.

The replacement parts should be available in April for the Chevy Cobalt and Pontiac G5 model years 2005 through 2007. Added to the recall just last week were more than 840,000 Saturn Ion cars 2003-2007; the midsized vehicles Chevy HHR years 2006-2007 and the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky 2006-2007. The company is no longer producing the cars involved in the recall. Among the recalled vehicles, 1.3 million are in the U.S., 234,000 are in Canada, 15,000 in Mexico and 2,600 were exported.

The popular Chevy Cobalt is one of the models with a recalled ignition switch.
The popular Chevy Cobalt is one of the models with a recalled ignition switch.

Did the recall take place in a timely manner? That is the question from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is looking into the recall and could impose a $35 million fine, the maximum civil penalty, if NHTSA was not notified within five days of knowing about the defect.

Consumers have been complaining about the sudden shut-off for years, reports Consumer Affairs. According to Automotive News, reports came into NHTSA in 2004 and engineers had a fix in 2005. The company never followed through. The Center for Auto Safety has a chronology on the GM Cobalt on its website.

The first female head of a major automotive company, Barra has apologized repeatedly and unprecedentedly. According to Clarence Ditlow, of the Center for Auto Safety, the last time an apology of this magnitude happened was when GM’s President James Roche apologized to Ralph Nader in March 1966, reports Consumer Affairs. GM did not recall vehicles in a timely manner even though it knew the problem and how to fix it, says Ditlow.

Consumers driving any GM vehicles named above need to be aware of the potential for the ignition switch to turn off. GM recommends drivers remove any keys from the key ring to reduce the weight on the key. Letter should be sent to owners by mid-March to alert them to the recall and how to proceed.

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