By Logan Quirk
As part of an agreement with the Justice Department, GM will pay $900 million to settle the criminal investigation involving faulty ignition switches in certain GM models. The defect has been linked to more than 100 deaths and numerous injuries with many incidents occurring after GM engineers identified the problem.
The dangerous fault with the GM ignition switches is related to a defect that would cause switches to accidentally move from the run position into the off position. This would cause the engine to stop with the vehicle in operation. With the engine off, the car’s airbags would fail to deploy in an accident. Additionally, the car would lose power steering and power brakes as a result of the fault.
The recall of vehicles with the defective ignition switch started back in 2014 and it covered millions of vehicles worldwide. However, court documents have revealed that executives and safety officials with GM became aware of the defect as early as 2005.
GM stopped using the switches in new cars back in 2006, however, the criminal matter comes from the fact that GM did not inform the public and federal safety regulators for years after they discovered the fault. This caused millions of Americans to continue driving potentially hazardous vehicles and it is known that GM was still selling used cars with the defect as late as 2013.
This settlement agreement is only a partial resolution of the criminal charges associated with the company’s handling of the defect and recall for the ignition switch. In addition to criminal charges, there have been more than 200 civil lawsuits filed against the carmaker for injuries and deaths that are believed to be in connection with the defective vehicle part.