General Motors has been fined the maximum penalty of $35 million by U.S. safety regulators for delays in recalling small cars with faulty ignition switches that are linked to at least 13 deaths, and is also issuing another huge recall over an unrelated safety concern.
As part of an agreement announced on May 16 by the Transportation Department and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, GM – the biggest automaker in the U.S. – also has agreed to government oversight on safety issues, and to report safety problems much faster than in the past.
NHTSA has been investigating GM’s delayed recall of older small cars with defective ignition switches. GM has acknowledged knowing about the problem for at least a decade, but it didn’t start recalling the cars until February of this year.
The company says at least 13 people have died in crashes linked to the problem.
“Today’s announcement puts all manufacturers on notice that they will be held accountable if they fail to quickly report and address safety-related defects,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
Under the agreement, GM will have to make “significant and wide-ranging internal changes” to its safety review process, the government said. The company also has to pay added penalties for failing to meet NHTSA’s deadline to answer questions about the ignition switches.
GM has also announced a total of five recalls covering 2.9 million vehicles, including 204,000 in Canada.
The biggest involves 2.4 million midsize cars from model years 2004 to 2012 with brake lights that can fail. According to GM, it knew about the brake light problem as early as 2008, and issued a technical service bulletin in that year that required dealers to offer to fix the problem if the owner became aware of it. In announcing the recall, GM said the brake light problem has been tied to 13 accidents and two injuries.