General Motors could face millions of dollars in civil penalties as the aftermath of publicly apologizing for responding quickly enough to a safety issue linked to 13 deaths and 31 accidents.
The financial ramifications could occur if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determines the automaker neglected to inform regulators.
The NHTSA is also facing criticism for not demanding GM act more quickly to recall more than 1.6 million vehicles, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
The recall is linked to the cars’ ignition switches, which GM says can be accidentally turned from the “run” position to the “accessory” position while the car is being driven.
When this happens, the engine shuts off and safety systems — including power steering, anti-lock brakes, and airbags — are disabled.
“We are deeply sorry and we are working to address this issue as quickly as we can,” GM’s North America President Alan Batey said in a statement.
“I haven’t seen GM apologize since they apologized to Ralph Nader in 1966,” Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, told the newspaper. “It’s a huge deal.”
General Motors added it’s recalling an additional 748,000 cars in the U.S., in addition to 619,000 vehicles recalled February 13. The remaining vehicles affected are in Mexico and Canada.
The updated recall now includes 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2007 Pontiac Soltices, and 2006-2007 Saturn Sky models. These models join the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models that were recalled earlier. A total of 1,367,146 cars in the U.S. are now included in the recall.
According to documents submitted to NHTSA by GM, the automaker was aware of the defective ignition switches as early as 2004 and issued a service bulletin for its dealers in 2005.