GM Waited 2 Weeks to Recall Ion Despite 4 Fatal Crashes

Mar 13, 2014 11:56 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

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General Motors Co reportedly waited over two weeks to expand its now controversial recall to include vehicles like the Saturn Ion and other compact cars, despite knowing of multiple fatal car crashes.

The automaker's engineers were made aware of four fatalities in crashes, according to Reuters.

GM recently said it had identified a problem with the ignition switch, the main reason for a massive recall of over 1.6 million cars, in 2001 pre-production testing, according to an amended submission to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This means that GM has finally acknowledged that it knew of an issue three years before the company previously reported. GM originally said it became aware of the problem in the Chevrolet Cobalt, in 2004.

The switch issue has been linked to at least 34 crashed and 12 deaths.

"We have to get to the bottom of this," said U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill said, a Missouri Democrat, according to Reuters. "We need to find out who dropped ball and put millions of Americans at risk."

McCaskill confirmed this week that a Senate subcommittee plans to hold a hearing sometime in April on the recall, according to Reuters.

On Feb. 13, GM announced the recall of over 780,000 Cobalts and Pontiac G5s from the 2005-07 model years. Just two weeks later, it added 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts from the 2003-2007 model years, and Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars from the 2006-2007 model years, to the recall.

A GM spokesman said on March 12 that the company decided to wait to expand the recall to conduct "more in-depth analysis," according to Reuters.

The automaker has said it will replace ignition switches in affected vehicles, free of charge.

Even after the ignition-switches are repaired, GM says that owners should still avoid weighing down key rings with anything but their key and fob.

GM said that while it is not buying back affected models, owners will be offered a $500 cash allowance, which is available for 2013-2015 mode-year vehicles through April 30.

The automaker will offer loaner cars in some cases, according to Reuters.

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