General Motors grapples with safety crisis

General Motors Co is grappling with a crisis over its 11-year failure to recall cars equipped with faulty ignition switches. The flaw could cause engines to shut off, leading to a sudden loss of power steering and power brakes, and the failure of air bags to deploy in a crash. So far, GM has attributed at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths to switch-related air bag malfunctions. It was only in February of this year that GM finally began recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other older models equipped with the faulty switches.

Following is a timeline of recent events.

June 16, 2014 - GM recalls 3 million more cars for ignition-switch issues, roughly doubling the number of GM vehicles with known switch problems. The No. 1 U.S. automaker has issued 44 recalls this year totaling about 20 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 17.7 million in the United States. Of the recalls this year, nearly 6.5 million of the vehicles were recalled for ignition switch-related issues. GM also raises a recall-related charge for the second quarter to $700 million from $400 million. This pushes GM’s total recall-related charges this year to $2 billion.

June 13, 2014 - GM recalls 511,528 Chevrolet Camaros for an ignition switch problem similar to the defect linked to at least 13 deaths in Chevrolet Cobalts and other models.

June 6, 2014 - GM announces four more recalls, unrelated to ignition issues.

June 5, 2014 - GM says it fired 15 people for misconduct and failure to act on the recall of the defective ignition switches for years after first gaining knowledge of the problem. GM also releases findings of an internal probe, blaming what the report described as incompetent lower-level employees and saying there was no cover-up. The automaker also says it will create a compensation fund for victims.

May 21, 2014 - GM says it is recalling more than 284,000 older Chevrolet small cars in the United States and other markets because of a potential fire hazard, bringing U.S. recalls at the automaker this year to 29 and almost 13.8 million vehicles.

May 16, 2014 - GM is slapped with a $35 million fine by the U.S. Department of Transportation for its delayed response to the ignition-switch defect.

April 24, 2014 - GM says it is the subject of five different government probes related to its massive recalls.

April 11, 2014 - Documents released by a U.S. House committee show that GM engineers were aware of serious problems with ignition switches in small cars but rejected several opportunities to make fixes. Federal regulators as early as 2007 were concerned that GM was dragging its heels on safety measures as consumer complaints mounted, but top officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never followed through on staffers’ recommendations to open a broad investigation, according to the documents.

April 2, 2014 - GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra comes under withering attack at a U.S. Senate hearing where lawmakers accuse the company of “criminal” behavior and “a culture of cover-up.”

April 1, 2014 - Barra tells a U.S. House panel she is “deeply sorry” for the company’s failure to respond quickly.

March 18, 2014 - GM names Jeff Boyer to the new position of vehicle safety chief, responsible for product safety issues, including recalls.

Feb. 25, 2014 - GM more than doubles its ignition-switch recall, mostly in North America, to 1,620,665 vehicles.

Feb. 13, 2014 - GM says it is recalling 776,562 older-model Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 compact cars in North America to correct a condition that may allow the engine and other components, including air bags, to be turned off unintentionally.

Jan. 15, 2014 - Barra, 52, takes over as chief executive, becoming the first female to lead a major automaker. The 33-year GM veteran previously headed, at different times, the automaker’s manufacturing engineering, human resources and product development.