General Motors, which in recent years managed to swing its image from a rather unreliable company to one that heeds the needs of its customers, now faces a set back, with questions raised on the way it handled the huge ignition recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would issue a new investigation on the matter, but this time it would not concern the actual problem, but rather the way GM handled it.

As the proceedings unfold, depending on the findings, the company could face besides civil, criminal penalties as well – a first for the agency, which was given such powers by the US congress in 2000 after another huge scandal – Ford Explorer’s rollovers due to Firestone tires.

NHTSA announced it would investigate “the timeliness of GM’s recall” and wants “to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls.”

The recall has now been expanded to several model lines, includes 1.37 million cars made between 2005-2007 (none of them are in production anymore) and involves 13 connected deaths over a decade.

“The chronology shows that the process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been,” GM North America President Alan Batey said in a statement. “We are deeply sorry, and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can.”

The company’s reputation is seriously at risk, as the matter is now under heavy publicity and the owners seek to know if their safety is endangered.


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