NHTSA wants GM records, emails, pictures in recall investigation

DETROIT, Mich. (WKBN) – It is possible that General Motors employees knew about a faulty ignition switch as early as 2004, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is conducting an investigation in tandem with GM’s own internal review of the issue.

The NHTSA has compiled over 107 questions they have presented to GM officials. The 27-page order also demands pictures, memos, and all forms of electronic communication from the company. All data must be submitted by April 3.

The investigation centers on whether GM’s response to the ignition issue was delayed, or if they withheld evidence of the defect. Automakers are required to report safety defects within five days.

Since Feb. 13, 1.6 million GM vehicles worldwide have been recalled. All of the cars are older models, ranging from model years 2003 to 2007.

The General Motors recall occurred last month.

Among those models, there have been 13 fatal front-seat accidents because air bags did not deploy, and engines did not shut off in all cases.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that GM could face a record fine up to $35 million from the NHTSA.

An independent watchdog group has also launched an investigation into the automaker.

According to a chronology of events that GM previously filed with the NHTSA, the company knew of the problem as early as 2004, and was told of at least one fatal crash in March of 2007.

GM issued service bulletins in 2005 and 2006 telling dealers how to fix the problem with a key insert, and advising them to warn customers about overloading their key chains. The company’s records showed that only 474 vehicle owners got the key inserts.

According to previously disclosed documents and reports, GM thought the service bulletin was sufficient because the car’s steering and brakes were operable even after the engines lost power, according to the chronology.

By the end of 2007, GM knew of 10 cases where Cobalts were in front-end crashes where the air bags didn’t inflate, according to the chronology report.

A U.S. House committee also is investigating the GM recall.

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