General Motors is the subject of multiple government investigations and civil lawsuits for taking more than a decade to recall 2.6 million cars with a deadly ignition switch defect. On Thursday, GM CEO Mary Barra appeared for the second time before a U.S. Senate subcommittee to discuss the company’s internal investigation into the recall.
Here are 10 key events in the recall saga:
February 2002: GM switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio approves the design of a new small-car ignition switch, even though Delphi, the supplier, says the switch doesn’t meet GM’s specifications. The switch goes into the Saturn Ion in late 2002. Later, it’s used for the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
July 29, 2005: Amber Marie Rose, 16, dies in a frontal crash in her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, the first of 13 deaths GM says were caused by the defective switches. A contractor hired by NHTSA found that the Cobalt’s ignition had moved out of the “run” position and into the “accessory” position, which stalled the car and cut off power to the steering, brakes and air bags.
April 2006: DeGiorgio signs off on a redesign of the ignition switch, but doesn’t change the part number, which makes the change difficult to track later. The new switch goes into cars from the 2007 model year and later.
November 2007: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declines to open a formal investigation into why air bags didn’t deploy in some Cobalt and Ion crashes, saying the incidence rate doesn’t appear to be higher than peer vehicles.
April 2013: During depositions in a wrongful death case in Georgia, GM is shown evidence DeGiorgio changed the switch design. In November, GM engineers finally confirm that the design was changed.
February 2014: In two separate actions, GM recalls 1.6 million small cars to repair defective ignition switches. The recall later grows to 2.6 million cars. The company says it expects to repair all of the vehicles by October.
April 1-2 — Barra and NHTSA acting chief David Friedman testify before Congressional committees. Barra says GM has hired compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg to administer a fund to compensate victims. The fund is expected to begin taking claims on Aug. 1.
May 16 — The U.S. government fines GM a record $35 million for failing to disclose the problems more quickly. GM agrees to report safety problems faster and consents to government oversight of its safety operations.
June 6 — Barra releases a 315-page investigation into the recalls by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas, who was hired by the company. The report concludes that engineers didn’t consider the ignition switch a safety issue for many years, and that engineering and legal staff didn’t act with any urgency to figure out or solve the problem. Barra dismisses 15 employees for their roles, including DeGiorgio.
June 30 — Compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg announces terms of his plan to compensate victims of crashes caused by GM small-car ignition switches, saying that GM has placed no limit on the total amount he can spend. GM also announced it would recall another 8.2 million vehicles for ignition switch problems dating to 1997. GM says the switches are different from the ones recalled earlier in the year. Recall total rises to 29 million for the year, including 17.1 million for ignition problems.