General Motors was the subject of multiple government investigations and hundreds of civil lawsuits for taking more than a decade to recall 2.6 million cars with a deadly ignition switch defect.
Under a deal with federal prosecutors expected to be announced Thursday, the automaker will pay a fine of $900 million to resolve a criminal investigation. It will also have to comply with oversight and other terms for the next three years.
Here are 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 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 death attributed to 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 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 made the change difficult to track later. The new switch went into cars starting with the 2007 model year.
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. NHTSA later says GM concealed information that was critical for the investigation.
April 2013: During depositions in a wrongful death case in Georgia, GM is shown evidence that DeGiorgio changed the switch design. In November, GM engineers finally confirm that the design was changed.
December 2013: Incoming CEO Mary Barra learns about the defective ignition switches.
February 2013: 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.
May 16, 2014: 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, 2014: Barra releases a 315-page investigation into the recalls by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, who was hired by the company. Barra says 15 employees have been dismissed and another five have been disciplined. She says GM will have a compensation fund for victims that will begin taking claims on Aug. 1.
August 2015: Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who is administering GM’s compensation fund, says the ignition switches were responsible for 124 deaths and 275 injuries. Families of those who died will get at least $1 million each. GM has set aside $625 million for compensation.
September 17, 2015: Federal prosecutors announce a deal with GM to resolve a criminal investigation into the recalls. The company agrees to pay $900 million and have a monitor to assure it complies with the agreement. The deal calls for two criminal charges to be dismissed if the company complies with terms of the agreement for three years. GM also said it will spend $575 million to settle thousands of civil lawsuits and an investor lawsuit.