General Motors Co. has already gotten in hot water over faulty ignition switches that have been linked to accidents resulting in deaths, but after documents released by federal safety regulators on March 12, the heat on the company may go from hot to sweltering.

 GM announced through regulators that the company has known about faulty ignition switches in its vehicles since 2001 and has yet to determine the full scope of the problem. Previously, the company had only announced recalls on vehicles manufactured in 2004 or after.

In addition, Delphi Automotive PLC announced that its faulty ignition switches would only take a few minutes and between $2 and $5 to switch and replace, which may provide the ammo that regulators need to question why GM did not take care of the problem sooner.

The new release outlines a 2001 report which encountered a problem with the ignition switch for the company’s Saturn Ion before the production of the vehicle for sale. In another new document from 2003, GM notes that a service technician observed an Ion that stalled while driving. At the time, The Wall Street Journal notes, GM believed that having “several keys on the key ring” had worn out the ignition switch due to the additional weight. The auto maker also released reports of customer complaints about starting Ion engines.

General Motors had already recalled 1.6 million cars with possible ignition issues, and more could be on the way. Accidents caused by the faulty ignitions have already been at the center of three separate investigations, including a criminal probe.

Chevrolet Cobalt and the Pontiac G5 cars manufactured between 2005 and 2007 were the original cars recalled after an internal investigation found issues with the ignition. GM opened an engineering  inquiry into the issue, but the company says it was later closed when deemed too expensive to fix. Despite overhauling the design of the ignition switch in 2007, GM did not issue recalls on the defective switches until February 2014.

Any owners unhappy with their recalled vehicle are eligible for a $500 cash allowance to buy or lease a new GM product.


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