GM's Cobalt model car showed the potential for serious malfunctions involving ignition-switch problems when it was launched in 2004. The main issue was that the ignition switch would switch to the "off" position while the driver was still in motion. This caused failure of the airbags and serious crashes to result. A Georgia woman was killed when the ignition switched off while she was driving 55 mph The company engineers and businessmen, however, either refused to pass on knowledge of the potential safety issue or maintained that it did not pose a serious risk to consumers. Depositions of company personnel reveal that many still continue to stand by the proposition that the safety issue was minor and that it was still possible to come to a safe stop. One company insider stated that as long as the key in the ignition is not weighed down by heavy keychains, it was safe to drive as the switch would not be improperly pushed to the "off" position. The company admitted that it was aware of the problem and that it could lead to disabling the power steering, power brakes, and airbags, but they contend that if a car were to experience this ignition issue and stall during motion, the driver could "safely coast off the road" without injury. GM recalled 1.6 million cars in February 2014 to replace the faulty ignition switches, and provided replacement loaner cars to consumers while they waited for repairs. Still, the federal government is investigating to determine whether GM violated criminal laws in its failure to properly respond to the safety issue. Senator Richard Blumenthal strongly believes the Justice Department should require GM to create a fund for consumers injured by the ignition switches, as many victims will not be able to recover since the company is shielded from liability for defects that occurred prior to 2009.
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