Federal regulators twice ignored complaints about the Chevy Cobalt defect that has killed hundreds of people, congressional investigators alleged yesterday, and General Motors not only knew about the flaw, but nixed several fixes because they'd be too expensive, the Wall Street Journal reports. A breakdown of each allegation:
- In September 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's default assessment chief noticed a "pattern" of airbags not deploying in Cobalts and Saturn Ions, citing 29 crashes—four of them fatal—in which the bags failed to deploy. He recommended an investigation, "notwithstanding GM's indications that they see no specific pattern." But in November, other officials said there was no pattern.
- In 2010, an NHTSA investigator found that a car had been in "accessory" mode during a fatal crash. Again, the agency didn't investigate.
- GM, meanwhile, did investigate the problem in 2004. But in 2005 it decided not to act on that investigation. The project engineering manager decided that "tooling costs and piece price are too high" and none of the fixes "represents an acceptable business case."
The NHTSA says that the data it had in 2007 "did not warrant a formal investigation" but that it is "actively investigating" the recall now. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which filed the report, isn't done looking into things either. "Lives are at stake, and we will follow the facts where they take us," Chair Fred Upton said yesterday, as per Bloomberg
. On Friday, GM widened the recall
by 971,000 vehicles.