Friday, March 14, 2014

GM's recall and the watchdog that didn't bark


Ever since General Motors recalled 1.6 million of its cars globally over a decade-old defect that could cut off engines and deactivate airbags in a crash, the automaker has been pointedly contrite. After all, its slow response may have cost some people their lives.

So why have U.S. regulators been so silent about their own response?

In the 10 years that some of GM's cars were on the road, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never started an investigation into the defect. That is despite the fact that under U.S. law, automakers have to submit "early warning" reports to NHTSA about potential problems, and GM was seeing warning signs as far back as 2004.

And it's despite the fact that during a March 2007 meeting, agency officials mentioned a fatal crash involving the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, according to a chronology GM submitted to regulators.

The victim from that July 29, 2005, crash was 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who struck a tree in Dentsville, Md., going 69 mph in a 25 mph zone, The New York Times reported.

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