DETROIT — A government safety agency is fining General Motors $7,000 a day, saying the company failed to fully respond to its requests for information about a faulty ignition switch by an April 3 deadline.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a letter to GM on Tuesday that the company already owes $28,000 in fines, and they will accrue at $7,000 per day until it provides all the requested information.
In February, the agency began investigating whether GM was slow to provide information and respond to problems with the switch that has been linked to at least 13 deaths. GM has admitted knowing that the switch was defective at least a decade ago, but failed to start recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide until this year.
In a two-page letter to GM North America vice president and legal counsel Lucy Clark Dougherty, NHTSA’s chief counsel, O. Kevin Vincent, said the company frequently stated that it did not respond to all the agency’s requests because of an investigation being done for GM by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas.
But Vincent objected, saying GM’s reasoning wasn’t valid. “Mr. Valukas’ investigation is irrelevant to GM’s legal obligation to timely respond to the Special Order and fully cooperate with NHTSA,” he wrote.
The fines are a sign of a deepening rift between GM and the safety agency. During congressional hearings last week, NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman blamed GM for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers about the faulty switches. Friedman testified that GM had information connecting defective switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it with the agency until last month.
GM said in a statement it has fully cooperated, and will keep providing responses as soon as they are available. “We will do so with a goal of being accurate as well as timely,” the statement said, giving no indication of when GM would fully comply. GM said it has produced nearly 21,000 documents totaling over 271,000 pages.
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