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GM fined $35M for bad ignition switches: Largest Transportation Dept. fine ever

General Motors (GM) must pay $35 million as a civil penalty over the car manufacturer’s extremely slow reaction to address its deadly ignition switch problem. The ignition switches on GM vehicles have been tied to 13 deaths throughout the United States and beyond. According to a Washington Post report on Friday, the GM penalty is the single highest civil penalty amount that has ever been paid as a result of an investigation into vehicular recalls made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration due to problems with vehicles.

This Chevy Cobalt has bigger problems than the color.

GM is also being required to pay additional civil penalties for not responding to demands from the NHTSA on time in delivering requested-documents related to the deadly ignition switch case. Anthony Foxx, the United States Transportation Secretary made a statement regarding Friday’s actions against GM. Foxx said that safety is his agency’s top priority and that the announcement against General Motors puts all manufacturers on notice that they will be held totally accountable if they fail to quickly report and address any safety-related defects of the vehicles they make.

General Motors waited over a decade before properly addressing the deadly ignition switch concern with many of its vehicles. GM, the United States’ largest automaker, must now make significant and wide-ranging changes in its methods of reviewing safety issues throughout the country, says the United States Department of Transportation. GM has now agreed to unprecedented oversight requirements that are given by the federal government.

In 2014, GM has issued recalls for some 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts as well as other small cars that have problematic ignition switches. The ignition switches have been said to inadvertently switch to the “accessory“ position. Switching to the “accessory” position may cause a vehicle to stall, disable air bags, and negatively impact steering and the vehicles’ brakes. The vehicle firm was finally investigated by the United States Congress which has been a forerunner to these record-breaking financial penalties, according to a New York Times report.

Many GM customers are still extremely concerned about the reaction of Chevrolet dealerships’ customer service departments’ nonchalant and uninformed response to the impending recalls. A case in point is the Advantage Chevrolet dealership in Hodgkins, Illinois – outside of Chicago. A customer service representative promised this reporter more information regarding the headlines of the Chevrolet ignition swich recalls "by the end of the business day" in mid-February. More than three months later, after repeated requests for the promised information, the emails or calls with the promised-information were never received.

Other service department representatives at other locations in the Chicago area simply say, “We know as much as you do,” usually accompanied with a shrug or even an inappropriate laugh. Obviously, the problems at GM goes far beyond the manufacturing of the faulty vehicles. It goes right down to the customer service personnel who are supposedly the public’s point of contact for mechanical concerns on a GM vehicle.

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