General Motors made its first cash offers this week to 15 people it says have legitimate death or injury claims involving a faulty ignition switch in a group of cars dating as far back as 2003. The Detroit automaker’s internal compensation fund also said it has received an additional 175 injury or death claims since Friday, putting the total at 850, according to Reuters.
But critics say GM should greatly expand the number of cars whose owners could qualify for compensation, because millions of the company's other vehicles have similar key-slippage problems.
GM has so far accepted 21 death claims, and four claims related to serious injury such as paralysis or amputation. Those figures will rise as more claims are submitted. The company is offering at least $1 million for each death and set aside $400 million earlier this year to cover these costs.
Earlier this year GM established an internal victims’ compensation fund for its so-called Cobalt family recall announced in February and March in which the ignition switch can cause the car to stall, disabling airbags. But aside from the 2.59 million cars in the Cobalt family recall, GM has identified millions of other cars in which the ignition key can slip out of position and cause the same problem.
So why the distinction even if the results could be the same? According to GM spokesperson Alan Alder, the Cobalt family recall is the only one “that involves replacement parts.”
“The other vehicles recalled for this condition are receiving only a reworked ignition key -- making a hole where the slot was -- and/or additional key rings to separate weight on the key chain from having a levering effect and pulling the ignition to accessory mode from run mode,” Adler added in an email Wednesday to International Business Times.
What this means is that even if nearly 14 million GM vehicles have been identified with the key-slippage problem, only about one in five of them are covered by GM’s compensation fund administered by attorney and special adviser Kenneth Feinberg. The fund, which was set up as an alternative to victims suing GM in court, will accept claims through the end of the year. For many victims, this could be the only recourse because GM was absolved by a bankruptcy court of any product-defunct liabilities that occurred before it emerged from bankruptcy on July 10, 2009.
Clarence Ditlow, director of the D.C.-based Center for Auto Safety and an outspoken critic of the way GM is handling the liability claims, says the company is splitting hairs by only recognizing claims from the ignition switch part and not the ignition key.
“They should cover all ignition switch defects no matter how you categorize them,” he told IBTimes by email on Wednesday. “We think GM made a major mistake not covering all ignition switch problems.”
The following is all of the cars that GM has identified with key-slippage problems as of Aug. 27:
Vehicles covered by the compensation fund for what GM is calling an “Ignition Switch Torque Performance” problem. (Asterisk indicates cars that also need an ignition cylinder replacement.)
Chevrolet Cobalt, 2005-2010*
Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2011*
Pontiac Pursuit, 2003-2007
Pontiac Solstice, 2006-2010*
Pontiac G5, 2007-2010*
Saturn Ion, 2003-2007*
Saturn Sky, 2007-2010*
Opel/Vauxhall GT, 2007-2010
Daiwoo G2X, 2007-2009
Total number of vehicles: 2.59 million in the U.S., including 400,392 outside of the U.S.
The following is the 11.27 million vehicles GM has called back this year for ignition switch slippage problems that are not included in the company’s compensation fund because GM says they involve keys not parts:
“Key FOB Can Bump Ignition”
Chevrolet Camaro, 2010-2014
Total number of vehicles: 511,528, including 46,816 outside of the U.S.
“Key Replacement from Slot to Hole”
Buick Allure, 2005-2009
Buick LaCrosse, 2005-2009
Buick Lucerne, 2006-2011
Chevrolet Impala, 2006-2014
Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 2006-2007
Cadillac Deville, 2000-2005
Cadillac DTS, 2007-2011
Total number of vehicles: 3.34 million, including 199,830 outside of the U.S.
“Unintended Ignition Key Rotation”
Chevrolet Malibu, 1997-2005
Chevrolet Impala, 2000-2005
Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 2000-2005
Pontiac Grand Am, 1999-2005
Pontiac Grand Prix, 2004-2008
Oldsmobile Intrigue, 1998-2002
Oldsmobile Alero, 1999-2004
Cadillac CTS, 2003-2014
Cadillac SRX, 2004-2006
Total number of vehicles: 7.2 million, including 766,878 outside of the U.S.
“Ignition Key Pullout in Run Position”
Saturn Vue, 2002-2004
Total number of vehicles: 215,243, including 13,088 outside of the U.S.