Auto manufacturers should make it easy to determine if there is a problem with the vehicle that you purchased and whether it is the subject of a safety recall.
At first blush, it seems General Motors had been doing that while handling the massive number of recalls it has issued in 2014 due to faulty ignition switches and other issues. For instance, the company provides a VIN search tool to check on whether or not your vehicle is on a recall list.
However, the automaker has now come under fire for returning inaccurate information to car owners on its website. As the Detroit Free Press reports, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that the GM VIN search tool actually was returning “incorrect” and “misleading” information to consumers seeking answers. In other words, you could be driving a potentially dangerous vehicle and not learn about it through the GM site.
Vehicles Recalled Due to Flaws Killed at Least 13
General Motors admits that at least 13 people have died in auto accidents directly related to faulty ignition switches present in millions of their vehicles. These bad parts caused vehicles to shut off while in operation, rendering air bags, power brakes and power steering worthless when drivers needed them the most.
So far, a total of 60 recalls have resulted in more than 29 million GM vehicles being called back by the auto giant in 2014. More than 17.3 million of these vehicles were recalled specifically for the ignition switch problems.
ABC News reports that 45 state attorney general offices are investigating the GM recall problems, primarily because the company knew about the dangerous flaws years before issuing recalls.
Company documents show that the problem first came on GM’s radar in 2001, but the company took no action. In 2006, a GM engineer tried to quietly fix the problem but came up considerably short in doing so.
GM has spent $3.48 billion so far in cleaning up the mess, and the victims of car accidents caused by the faulty ignition switches haven’t even begun to receive compensation. For these consumers, GM announced a no-cap fund that could rise to $600 million, according to news reports.
GM Vehicle Owners Left Without Answers
The Free Press reports that the problem with GM’s VIN search tool is that it is reassuring people that their vehicles are fine even when they are a part of the recall. Apparently, if parts for repairs are not yet available, the tool will state that a recall is not in place for that particular GM vehicle.
The NHTSA has told GM to fix the issue. In the meantime, GM owners are being told to try again. To be doubly safe, GM owners can contact the customer care department of the federal agency.
Among those vehicles affected by GM recalls are:
- Chevrolet Cobalt (2005-2010 model years)
- Pontiac G5 (2007-2010)
- Saturn Ion (2003-2007)
- Chevrolet HHR (2006-2011)
- Pontiac Solstice (2006-2010)
- Saturn Sky (2007-2010).
The NHTSA will require all automakers to provide a recall search tool on their website, effective August 20, 2014. Even though GM and others already offer such a tool, it won’t do consumers any good if the tool itself is defective.