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As of 2015, General Motors was responsible for 124 deaths and 274 injuries because of a faulty ignition switch in their vehicles. The ignition switch would slip out of the “ON” position and shut off vehicles mid-drive. This also caused the airbags to not deploy when car crashes caused by the ignition did happen, because the cars were already off. The production of vehicles with faulty ignition switches began in 2001, but the company wait years to take action against this deadly problem.
Despite GM’s awareness of the problem, dating back to the company’s meetings about the issue as early as 2005, they did not begin to recall vehicles until February of 2014. When GM originally acknowledged the problem to the public, they claimed that only 13 deaths could be linked to the faulty ignition switch. Due to GM’s unethical treatment of the situation and deception throughout the entire process, beginning in 2005, they were eventually involved in a trial that settled in August 2015.
On September 17, 2015, General Motors entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement and agreed to forfeit $900 million to the United States, and compensated the surviving victims with $600 million.
General Motors attempted to deceive the public, as well as automotive regulators about the deadly design flaw in their vehicles. This unethical action resulted in over a hundred deaths and over two hundred injuries. Had the company been upfront about the issue with their product, lives could have been spared. GM committed unethical acts in the name of brand and wealth preservation, but they ended up paying for their actions, taking a hit to their checkbook and their reputation.