Detroit—General Motors is the subject of multiple government investigations and civil lawsuits for taking more than a decade to recall 2.6 million cars with a deadly ignition switch defect. CEO Mary Barra appears before Congress June 18 to answer more questions about what she knew.
Here are 10 key events in the recall saga:
February 2002: GM switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio approves the design of a new small-car ignition switch, even though the supplier says the switch doesn’t meet GM’s specifications. The switch goes into the Saturn Ion in late 2002. Later, it’s used for the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
July 29, 2005: Amber Marie Rose, 16, dies in a frontal crash in her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, the first of 13 deaths GM says were caused by the defective switches. A contractor hired by NHTSA found that the Cobalt’s ignition had moved out of the “run” position and into the “accessory” position, which cut off power to the steering, brakes and air bags.
April 2006: DeGiorgio signs off on a redesign of the ignition switch, but doesn’t change the part number, which will make the change difficult to track later. The new switch goes into cars from the 2007 model year and later.
November 2007: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declines to open a formal investigation into why air bags didn’t deploy in some Cobalt and Ion crashes, saying the incidence rate doesn’t appear to be higher than peer vehicles.
April 2013: During depositions in a wrongful death case in Georgia, GM is shown evidence that DeGiorgio changed the switch design. In November, GM engineers finally confirm that the design was changed.
December 2013: Incoming CEO Mary Barra learns about the defective ignition switches.
February 2013: In two separate actions, GM recalls 1.6 million small cars to repair defective ignition switches. The recall later grows to 2.6 million cars. The company says it expects to repair all of the vehicles by October.
April 2014: Barra and NHTSA acting chief David Friedman testify before Congressional committees. Barra says GM has hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg, but defers many questions until after the company has completed its internal report.
May 16 2014: The U.S. government fines GM a record $35 million for failing to disclose the problems more quickly. GM agrees to report safety problems faster and consents to government oversight of its safety operations.
June 2014: Barra releases a 315-page investigation into the recalls by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas, who was hired by the company. Barra says 15 employees have been dismissed and another five have been disciplined. She says GM will have a compensation fund for victims that will begin taking claims on Aug. 1.