GM Employee Pointed Out Chevy Ignition Switch Problem in 2005

Jun 20, 2014 03:17 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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General Motors could be facing another massive federal fine related to the 3.36 million-vehicle recall of Chevrolet models and other cars earlier this week.

A GM employee apparently alerted 11 colleagues about ignition switch problems in a 2005 email that came up during a House subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, the Detroit Free Press reported.

In the missive dated Aug. 30, 2005, GM employee Laura Andres said that her 2006 Chevrolet Impala stalled on a hectic interstate after hitting a bump. A problematic ignition switch was likely the problem, a GM engineer told Andres at the time.

"I think this is a serious safety problem ... I'm thinking big recall," Andres said in the email from nine years ago.

Her concerns were written off by GM engineer Ray DiGiorgio, who has since been fired for his connections with the recent recall of 2.6 million small cars including the Chevrolet Cobalt and the Saturn Ion.

GM issued a recall for the exact Chevy model Adres was driving as well as several other cars on Monday, saying the vehicles had ignition switch problems similar to those linked to the huge small car recall earlier this year.

Monday's recall included the Buick Lacrosse from model years 2005-'09; Chevrolet Impala from 2006-'14; Cadillac Deville from 2000-'05; Cadillac DTS from 2004-'11; Buick Lucerne from 2006-'11; Buick Regal LS and RS from 2004-'05; and Chevrolet Monte Carlo from 2006-'08.

While the ignition switches in this recall were different from those linked to 54 crashes and 13 deaths in the earlier recall, the two faulty components apparently came from the same GM engineer.

In both cases, the switches could move out of the run position while the car was driving, shutting off the engine and disabling airbags.

When Andres wrote her email, DiGiorgio replied that he had recently driven the same model and "did not experience this condition."

GM has already been slammed with a $35 million fine for its decade-plus delay of addressing the problematic switches in 2.6 million small cars. The 2005 email from Andres isn't enough on its own to prove that GM was aware of problems in Chevrolet Impalas and other vehicles, but it could be used for a mounting case against the company.

CEO Mary Barra spoke before the House subcommittee this week, detailing what GM has done to make restitution for the ignition switch disaster.

"This latest recall raises even more questions about just how pervasive safety problems are at GM," Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said of this week's recall in a statement. "This is not just a Cobalt problem. Drivers and their families need to be assured that their cars are safe to drive."

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