A leading government agency is facing tough questions over why it declined to investigate consumer complaints sooner.
At least 13 people have died over the last decade in accidents involving GM cars that were only recalled last month, including teenagers Natasha Weigel and Amy Rademaker.
Their Chevy Cobalt slammed into a tree in 2006 after the car they were riding in allegedly turned off all of a sudden.
Former National Highway Transportation Safety Administrator Joan Claybrook, now a safety advocate, said the NHTSA should have forced GM to fix the problem back then.
A New York Times analysis found more than 260 complaints to the NHTSA over the last 11 years about GM cars with ignition problems.
“Federal regulators a decade ago could have thoroughly investigated this,” Claybrook said. “They didn’t do it; they asked General Motors for a little information but not much.”
The NHTSA said it did investigate the accidents, including three special crash investigations.
However, officials said there wasn’t enough evidence of a possible safety defect trend to warrant the agency opening a formal investigation.