General Motors will continue to be under the scrutiny of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for at least one more year after federal safety regulators decided to extend a consent order that allows the government to closely monitor its safety processes. Last year, GM issued a massive recall due to a defect in its ignition switch.
According to the consent order last year, GM agreed to being overseen by the government for up to three years, as the price it has to pay for delaying to recall 2.6 million small cars with defective ignition switches. This problem has been associated with almost 200 injuries and at least 104 fatalities.
On the anniversary of the initial consent order, the NHTSA announced that it will have oversight on how GM manages safety matters for one additional year at least. The reason it gave was that it has been “a productive and effective tool” to handle potential safety issues “proactively and expeditiously.”
In a statement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that last year, GM “learned a hard lesson.” He said that he hopes that by extending the consent order, GM will stay on the right track. He adds that the improvements made are expected to continue and that new approaches will be applied to each recall and safety issue.
Under the consent order, GM has to submit reports and have regular meetings with NHTSA officials to make sure that it meets its obligation and that it correctly diagnoses and acts on possible defects appropriately. A May 14 letter sent to GM from NHTSA's assistant chief counsel Timothy Goodman stated that the extension of the order wasn’t due to concern about GM’s performance.
He said that the NHTSA wanted to “continue the dialogue that those requirements have facilitated on important safety issues.” A statement from a GM spokesman reveals that its monthly meetings with the NHTSA have built a relationship that focuses on its customers’ safety. He stated that they’ve come a long way and that they hope to build on this progress.
Since the ignition switch recall, GM has made many changes to its safety protocols. A global safety chief was named and it has reorganized its engineering division as well as made a program that urges workers to report potential problems with safety.
An investigation commissioned by GM revealed that the problem was known by several high-ranking attorneys and engineers but this matter wasn’t brought to the attention of GM officials. The switch has a tendency to slip out of the “run” position and this cuts the power to the steering, brakes and airbags.