WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced today that the District and 49 states have reached a $120 million consumer settlement with General Motors Company (“GM”) over allegations regarding known safety defects with ignition switches in GM vehicles. The defects resulted in serious, and sometimes deadly, accidents.
“We believe GM waited years, after learning of these dangerous defects, to disclose and repair them,” Attorney General Racine said. “The District and our fellow states have reached this settlement to ensure that GM does not endanger the lives of our residents again, and to discourage other companies from following GM’s bad example.”
The defects, which the attorneys general allege the company did not disclose in a timely fashion, were associated with unintended key-rotation and ignition-switch-issues in certain GM vehicles. In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to the issues, which affected more than 9 million vehicles in the United States. The defective ignition switches, under certain conditions, could move out of the “Run” position to the “Accessory” or “Off” position. If this occurs, the driver experiences a loss of electrical systems, including power steering and power brakes. If a collision occurs while the ignition switch is in the “Accessory” or “Off” position, the vehicle’s safety airbags may also fail to deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury or death.
Defects Known to GM as Early as 2004
In their multistate investigation, the states alleged that certain employees of GM and its predecessor, General Motors Corporation, knew as early as 2004 that ignition switches in its vehicles posed a danger to drivers. However, despite this knowledge, GM personnel delayed issuing recall notices concerning the defect, while, at the same time, emphasizing the reliability and safety of its motor vehicles.
In its complaint, filed today in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the District alleges that GM’s actions violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act and Lemon Law by (1) misrepresenting that its motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment were safe and reliable; (2) failing to disclose to consumers and regulators known safety risks associated with the operation of GM motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment; (3) selling unsafe motor vehicles and unsafe motor vehicle components; and (4) failing, in a timely fashion, to diagnose and repair motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment that were the subject of consumer complaints related to the defective ignition switch.
The complaint seeks a consent order and judgment from the Court that would prohibit GM from:
- Claiming that a motor vehicle is “safe” unless GM has complied with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards applicable to the motor vehicle at issue.
- Claiming that certified pre-owned vehicles that GM advertises are safe, have been repaired for safety issues, or have been subject to rigorous inspection unless such vehicles are not subject to any open recalls relating to safety or have been repaired pursuant to such a recall.
The judgment would also require GM to:
- Instruct its dealers that all applicable recall repairs must be completed before any GM motor vehicle sold in the United States can be certified as having passed GM’s 172-Point Vehicle Inspection and Reconditioning Process.
The District is scheduled to receive $1,076,141.47 from the settlement. Affected consumers were previously offered compensation for injuries or death that occurred in connection with ignition switch problems in GM vehicles through various class action settlements, as well as through a fund that GM established to provide payments to consumers injured or families of those killed as a result of the defect.
Today’s settlement was also joined by attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
If you have a complaint about an automotive product or any other consumer problem, call the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline at (202) 442-9828 or send an email to our Office of Consumer Protection at email@example.com. You can also submit a complaint via our online form (available in English and Spanish) here.