General Motors has been dealing since February with its biggest safety crisis in decades, as the public was outraged to find out that a recall over a potentially fatal defect was delayed by the company for many years.
Everybody knows today that the No.1 US automaker mishandled the recall of 2.6 million cars, all equipped with a defective ignition switch and linked so far by GM (other reports say the number is gravely underestimated) to 54 crashes and 13 deaths. The ensuing slew of federal probes and lawsuits uncovered that many GM employees had knowledge of the failure since for at least 11 years – prior to the February 2014 recall. Other evidence even suggests that some knew even before – as it showed a letter dated 2002 from an ousted quality manager that called for recalls because of important safety fails within company cars.
The latest piece of evidence – against GM’s defense that it knew little of the failure, which causes the engine to shut down and in the event of a crash the airbag to fail to deploy – comes from US lawmakers, which are probing the company.
According to a 2012 internal memo made public yesterday, the company tracked down no less than over 800 cases when airbags failed to deploy on the Saturn Ion and Chevrolet Cobalt – the models most prominently associated to the 2.6 million recall.
GM airbag engineer John Sprague told another company executive that according to his “raw numbers,” there were 189 cases in the 2003-2007 Ion and 626 cases in the 2005-2010 Cobalt, on both cars the front airbags failing to properly deploy.