Mendoza School of Business

6 killed in GM cars with faulty ignition switches

Published: February 14, 2014 / Author: James Healey

At least six people have died because of accidents involving faulty ignition switches in General Motors compacts, prompting the big automaker to recall 778,562 of its 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5 compacts in North America.

Recalls rarely involve flaws that kill people; many are linked with no accidents or injuries.

But some notable recalls in recent years have been connected with deaths, including a Jeep recall last year, Toyota’s “sudden acceleration” recalls in 2010 that were blamed in part on driver error and a Honda multiyear recall for faulty airbags.

This recall is for switches that can shut off the car if jarred and the remedy is to replace the switch. It will be difficult to get done because the cars are old enough to be in the hands of second, or even third owners. Industry and safety officials’ experience shows that many subsequent owners don’t register with automakers, so it’s tougher to find them with notice of a recall.

“GM is going to spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort locating and fixing the defective cars,” says Kaitlin Wowak, University of Notre Dame assistant professor of management, who specializes in supply chain risks.

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