Mar 17, 2014
In the latest chapter of this deadly story, it turns out that GM knew way back in 2001, when the Saturn Ion was in development, that there was a problem with the ignition switch – the same switch that, by GM’s own admissions, has led to 12 deaths and 31 accidents in the Saturn Ion and the Chevy Cobalt.
GM says that after engineers pointed out the problem, it was fixed. Fixed? Well it’s those same switches that have been the crux of the problem ever since.
An ignition switch that shuts off on its own is not a minor problem – it means that a car loses its power steering, its power braking, and all its electrical systems, as well as the deployment of airbags in the case of a crash.
How many other accidents were caused by the same problem when a car swerved off course because the steering didn’t hold? How many other people were killed because seat belts didn’t deploy? No one knows, because GM did not publicize the issue nor did it fix the problem. It just kept producing cars with faulty switches, even though its own engineers, starting in 2004, had at least twice proposed a correction for the problem.
Corrections, once a car is in production, or even early in development, cost money. Recalls cost money. And money spent on “unnecessary” items is profit lost. In the capitalist world that GM dominates, human life is apparently one of those “unnecessary” items.
Government safety regulators said that they had received more than 70 complaints about the same issue since 2003. The Center for Auto Safety, a private consumer advocacy group, found over 300 deaths attributed to faulty seat belt deployment in the Chevy Cobalt and the Saturn Ion models under investigation. But regulators didn’t even bother to look into the problem until that independent investigation raised the issue. “Not enough evidence,” regulators said, “to warrant an investigation.” How do you get evidence without an investigation?
Apparently the regulators didn’t want to find the evidence – others certainly found it. It seems that the government’s safety regulators, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, shared GM’s priorities, wherein profit trumps human life.