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GM documents reveal recall avoidance for defective product

Recognizing the potentially devastating impact of issuing a recall for products, a look into GM’s document history demonstrates that the company took multiple measures to circumvent the recall process. In cases with a defective product, the safest thing for manufacturers to do is to issue a recall as soon as claims begin reporting problems, injuries, or death. Unfortunately, these manufacturers do not always put the safety of consumers first. The GM recall is the latest in a string of news stories about defective auto parts and failure to recall that have put drivers in Montana and beyond in peril.

General Motors was clearly aware of the safety issues with their defective ignition switches, because they sent out letters nine years ago notifying dealers of the potential problem. The company, however, did not issue a recall notice until February 2014. Recently an article analyzed the company’s recall history and discovered that the automobile manufacturer frequently uses technical service bulletins, such as letters to dealers, in their management of automobile design defects. In all cases, GM waited before issuing an official recall.

Many automobile manufacturers use technical service bulletins to alert dealers and consumers about minor issues or recent developments that the maker is still researching. The defective ignition switches were the cause of 13 deaths. Even though company records indicate knowledge of the defective part many years ago, drivers in Montana and all over the country continued to operate these vehicles before GM issued a recall notice.

Auto manufacturers are responsible for investigating faulty parts, determining a safety response, and notifying the public about potentially dangerous vehicles, but the GM situation highlights how they, and possibly other manufacturers, have attempted to evade life-saving recalls.

Source: New York Times, “Sending alerts instead, G.M. delayed car recalls,” Danielle Ivory, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Bill Vlasic April 19, 2014

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