General Motors Company ordered nearly half a million new ignition switches about two months before it informed federal safety regulators about a problem linked to faulty switches, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. The automaker recalled nearly 2.5 million vehicles in February over the issue, which has since been linked to nearly 30 deaths and triggered a Justice Department investigation.
GM reportedly made an “urgent” order of nearly 500,000 replacement switches a day after a meeting of senior executives in December 2013, The Journal reported, citing emails between a GM contract worker and the supplier, Delphi Automotive PLC. The Journal reported that executives discussed the Chevrolet Cobalt’s faulty ignition switch but did not decide on a recall at the time. GM did not publicly disclose the order mentioned in the emails, which may now help lawyers suing the automaker for delaying the recall, according to The Journal.
“This order for 500,000 parts raises deeply disturbing questions about the validity of the (Anton) Valukas report,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told The Journal about the emails, adding, “but more important, the timeline of GM’s effort to protect its car owners. The question is why the delay and how many lives were put at risk since GM waited at least two months before issuing a recall even though it had already decided to order parts?”
Valukas, a Chicago attorney, conducted an independent investigation to study the timeline of GM’s recall. The 315-page report, which was issued in late May and was used by Congressional leaders and others to better understand GM's delay in responding to the switch problem, did not mention the parts' order by the automaker, The Journal reported.
The faulty ignition switch in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars caused the ignition switch to inadvertently move the key away from the “run” to “accessory” setting, abruptly cutting power to the air bags, steering and brakes. The automaker had received hundreds of claims regarding economic loss, death or injury connected to the switch issue.
A federal judge in Manhattan has set Jan. 11, 2016 as the first trial date in the case. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, also fined GM $35 million for delays related to the recall, The Journal reported, adding that Delphi and the NHTSA declined to comment on the emails viewed by the paper.