Timeline: GM's faulty ignition switch | Reuters.com

Timeline: GM's faulty ignition switch

General Motors goes to trial in lawsuits over its 2014 recall of millions of vehicles for a faulty ignition switch linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths.

    March 2016 - Is the car the villain?

    A U.S. jury finds that a defective ignition switch wasn't to blame for a 2014 accident in a General Motors car. This is the first trial to reach a verdict since the company recalled millions of vehicles with the part.

    The eight jurors, who deliberated less than a day following a two-week trial in Manhattan, found that the ignition switch made the 2007 Saturn Sky unreasonably dangerous and that GM failed to warn about its safety risks. But since they found the switch was not to blame for the accident, they awarded no damages.

    A portion of a GM automobile is displayed as evidence in a Manhattan federal courtroom in this undated handout photo released to Reuters on January 11, 2016.  REUTERS/UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS 

    January 2016 - A trial but no verdict

    General Motors goes to trial on January 11 in a lawsuit over its 2014 recall of millions of vehicles for a faulty ignition switch linked to nearly 400 injuries and deaths.

    However, this first trial ends abruptly without reaching a verdict, after allegations that the plaintiff gave misleading testimony.

    Sept 2015 - The deals and the settlement

    GM reaches agreements to settle significant portions of the civil litigation brought against it over the faulty ignition switches. 

    The deals are announced alongside GM’s $900 million settlement with U.S. prosecutors to end a criminal probe into the switch problems.

    One deal is to settle about 1,380 injury and death claims consolidated in New York federal court, and another to resolve litigation brought by GM shareholders who say the company lost billions in market value because of safety issues.

    Dan Ammann, President of General Motors, walks after a news conference in Sao Paulo July 28, 2015. REUTERS/Nacho Doce 

    May 2014 - Record fine 

    GM is slapped with a record $35 million in civil penalties for its delayed response to the ignition switch defect in millions of vehicles, as federal regulators accused a long line of company officials of concealing a problem that is linked to at least 13 deaths. 

    The fine is the maximum that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can impose.

    Acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator David Friedman stands near U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (back) as they announce that General Motors will be fined a record $35 million at the Department of Transportation in Washington, May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing 

    June 2014 - Recall notices blunder

    GM apologizes to families of accident victims who have been notified to bring in cars for replacement of defective ignition switches.

    Terri DiBattista, the adoptive mother of 16-year-old daughter Amber Marie Rose who was killed in a 2005 Maryland accident involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, tells Reuters she received two recall notices from GM last week asking her to bring in the vehicle to fix the ignition switch and power steering.

    The car was destroyed when Rose crashed into a tree.

    Terry DiBattista looks over an album created in memory of her adopted daughter Amber Rose at her home in Conway, South Carolina March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Randall Hill 

    June 2014 - Reuters analysis

    A Reuters analysis of government fatal-crash data determines that at least 74 people have died in General Motors cars in accidents with some key similarities to those that GM has linked to 13 deaths involving defective ignition switches.

    Such accidents also occurred at a higher rate in the GM cars than in top competitors’ models, the analysis showed.

    Family members of General Motors crash victims wipe away tears at a news conference prior to testimony by GM CEO Mary Barra (not seen) before a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the GM ignition switch recall on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

    May 2014 - Scheuer crash

    Robert Scheuer claims he was injured in May 2014 when his 2003 Saturn Ion ran off the highway, became airborne and then struck the ground and trees in May 2014. 

    The front air bag did not deploy, which Scheuer blamed on the switch despite having followed GM's instructions to remove all but a single key from his key ring.

    Scheuer's case will now be the first of of six trials to be heard in 2016 before U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in the Southern District of New York.

    The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Warren Transmission Operations Plant in Warren, Michigan October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook 

    February 2014 - The recall

    GM begins recalling 2.6 million cars with the faulty switch, which can slip out of place, stalling engines and preventing air bags from deploying. 

    In March, GM expands its global recall of cars to 2.6 million, adding 971,000 later-model vehicles due to concerns over faulty replacement parts.

    The recall now includes all model years of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Saturn Ion, Saturn Sky, Pontiac G5 and Pontiac Solstice made from 2003-2011.

    A protester holds up a sign outside General Motor World Headquarters during a remembrance for people who died in car crashes linked to defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, in front of the GM World Headquarters in downtown Detroit, June 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook   

    January 2014 - Barra becomes aware

    New CEO Mary Barra learns of the defective ignition switches. 

    General Motors CEO Mary Barra prepares to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on the GM ignition switch recall on Capitol Hill in Washington June 18, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst 

    2009 - GM files for bankruptcy

    GM files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It ends production of Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands. 

    The bankruptcy leaves many liabilities with the financially strapped "Old GM", the shell company comprised of bad assets, thanks to a ruling last year from the bankruptcy judge in April 2015. 

    This means GM may avoid potentially billions of dollars in liability, as well as the cost of defending those lawsuits, although claims arising from GM's conduct after its bankruptcy will not be affected.

    A sign points the way towards U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East
    2008 - Bush's bailout

    U.S. President George W. Bush approves a $17.4 billion bailout for GM, Chrysler and Ford.

    U.S. President George W. Bush leaves the Roosevelt Room after making comments on the automaker's industry at the White House in Washington, December 19, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young 

    September 2005 - Brand-new switch considered - and rejected

    GM engineers working on the Ion and Cobalt decide against a new ignition switch, because the new switch would require $400,000 in new tooling and added 90 cents to the cost of each car.

    Instead, yet another ignition switch revision for the Ion and other cars is approved in April 2006 by GM's DeGiorgio.

    Delphi officials told congressional investigators that the redesigned switch approved provided "a significant increase in...performance, but the values were still below GM's original specifications."

    Consulting materials engineer Mark Hood inspects a 2005 ignition switch in the mechanical testing laboratory at McSwain Engineering, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida, March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger  

    July 2005 - Death of Maryland teen

    16-year-old Amber Marie Rose is killed in a 2005 single-car crash of her 2005 Cobalt in Maryland. Investigators hired by NHTSA say her air bag did not deploy. 

    Laura Christian holds a photograph of her deceased daughter Amber Marie Rose in remembrance of her and others who died in car crashes from defective ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, in front of the GM World Headquarters in downtown Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook  

    2003 - 'Nearly killed in the vehicle twice'

    Saturn Ion drivers, in complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, describe putting their lives at risk when engines inexplicably stalled. There are more than 550 complaints for the 2003 Ion alone.

    One owner of a new 2003 Ion reported being "nearly killed in the vehicle twice" when the car stalled on a freeway. 

    Another told NHTSA "on three different occasions, my knee has accidentally hit the keys, causing the engine to shut off," including two incidents at highway speeds.

    A General Motors assembly plant in Atlanta, Georgia. REUTERS/Tami Chappell 
    December 2003 - The first crash fatality

    The first Ion crash fatality occurs, according to GM and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records, followed by seven more deaths in five more Ion crashes by June 2005. 

    Neither GM nor NHTSA say if those deaths were potentially linked to the defective ignition switch, but GM acknowledges four switch-related deaths in Saturns, all of them 2004 Ions.

    Family members of General Motors crash victims, wipe their eyes as Kenneth Feinberg, a victims compensation lawyer hired by General Motors, speaks in Washington June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
    December 2002 -  Problems start

    Issues crop up almost immediately with the Ion's ignition switch. GM sends a service bulletin to Saturn dealers in December 2002, when the Ion has been on the road for just four months, telling technicians how to replace the ignition lock cylinder. 

    Another service bulletin in June 2004 addresses issues with engines failing to start. A third bulletin in March 2005 advises technicians about "inadvertent turning" off of the switch, which caused engine stalling. 

    Owners complain about keys accidentally switching off the ignition and engines stalling. 

    Technician Bob Poe works on wiring under the drivers seat of a Chevy Traverse. REUTERS/John Gress

    2002 - The Saturn Ion

    The 2003 Saturn Ion debuts two years before the Chevy Cobalt, the model most associated with the current recall of 2.6 million vehicles, and the Ion is the first car with the defective ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths when engines turned off, disabling airbags. 

    Ion was supposed to be a pivotal car for GM, but instead it came to represent the compromises and corner cutting that almost destroyed the company. 

    Members of the press look over the new 2003 Saturn ION quad coup at its
    debut at the New York International Auto Show in New York on March 27, 2002.
    REUTERS/Peter Morgan 

    2002 - Approving the switch

    Auto supplier Delphi alerted GM that the switch did not meet the automaker's standards by early 2002, the parts maker told Congress. The switch cost less than $1 to produce.

    However, former GM officials told Reuters that changing it just before the start of production would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in factory retooling and cause an expensive and embarrassing delay in the Ion's introduction.

    GM decided to proceed with the sub-par switch in February 2002, only five months before the first Ions were expected to roll out of a Tennessee factory, Delphi told Congress. The decision would have far-reaching consequences over the next 14 years. 

    A recalled Chevy Cobalt ignition switch is seen at Raymond Chevrolet in Antioch, Illinois, July 17, 2014. REUTERS/John Gress 

    2001 - The first signs 

    GM first notices the ignition switch defect a year before the first Saturn Ion goes into production. 

    The faulty GM ignition switches could cause engines to shut off while driving, leading to a sudden loss of power steering and power brakes, and the failure of air bags to deploy in a crash.

    A man sits behind the wheel of the new 2003 Saturn ION quad coupe at its
    debut at the New York International Auto Show March 27, 2002. The quad coupe
    and the new ION sedan replace the S-series in the Saturn lineup.
    REUTERS/Peter Morgan 

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