Image Courtesy : lh3.googleusercontent.com
General Motors recalled three million cars for ignition switch issues on 16th June, which is roughly doubling the number of GM vehicles with known switch problems in a crisis that has defined the automaker and the new CEO, Mary Barra this year. GM on Monday recalled 3.36 million mid-size and full-size cars globally with ignition switches that can be jarred out of the ‘run’ position, which potentially affects power steering, power brakes and air bags. The current recall system is a shared responsibility between NHTSA and automakers, which are expected to notify regulators and the public of safety issues and to initiate voluntary recalls. NHTSA also conducts its own research into crashes and traffic data and also can order recalls.
The system broke down with GM and NHTSA failing together, and each separately, to decide to recall defective switches that first showed problems in 2001. GM did not issue the first of several recalls for the switches until February. Safety advocates and members of Congress are demanding reform and more accountability. Critics say the agency relies too much on auto companies to self-report problems. But NHTSA is dwarfed by the sprawling industry it regulates. With just 591 employees, it is responsible for overseeing the safety of all vehicles on the nation’s roads.
Regulators say they need the industry to self-report safety issues and to reliably initiate its own safety recalls for the system to work.The bottom line is that safety is a shared responsibility, said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, whose department oversees NHTSA. And also added that there are some situations when automakers are in a better position than NHTSA to know information.The agency also points out that its mission is more about promoting driver safety and less about policing safety defects. NHTSA says it gets more bang for its buck and saves more lives investing in safe driving campaigns, such as nationwide seat belt, anti-texting and anti-drunken driving promotions.
GM said it would replace or rework ignition keys to eliminate a slot in the end of the key. The slot allows a dangling key ring to slip to one side and pull the ignition key out of run position. The use of a key with a hole, rather than a slotted key, addresses the concern of unintended key rotation due to a jarring road event, such as striking a pothole or crossing railroad tracks. Although no more employees are expected to be reprimanded, GM likely will be in the coming months and years. The automaker continues to face criticism from families who have lost loved ones, owners of the affected vehicles and public officials.
The lack of attention regarding GM’s current recall situation underscores what automotive analysts have been speculating for months, that the recalls are not detrimentally impacting the automaker thanks to Barra’s proactive approach to addressing the problem, GM’s current lineup of vehicles and a lack of caring by consumers, and GM’s sales also are holding their own, amid an onslaught of bad press.