US government prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether carmaker General Motors broke the law in not properly revealing problems with some of its vehicles.
Federal investigators are said to be reviewing how GM responded to reports of issues with ignition switches that first emerged 10 years ago.
Reportedly it could lead to the engine being shut down while a vehicle was traveling at high speed. It could also turn off components including front airbags.
Those problems were linked to 13 deaths, but GM did not issue a
recall to fix the switches until last month.
The failure is believed to be caused when weight on the ignition key, road conditions or some other jarring event causes the ignition switch to move out of the “run” position, turning off the engine and most of the car’s electrical components mid-drive, with sometimes catastrophic results.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is already investigating why the recall took so long.
GM has declined to comment on the probe but has started its own internal investigation.
The company has recommended that owners use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring.
The supplier of the ignition switch, Delphi Automotive , said the part had not been provided to any other automaker.
One analyst said the recall could have a longer-term impact on GM. “The immediate financial impact is insignificant; however, there could be some reputational risk which could impact share,” RBC Capital markets analyst Joseph Spak said.
“Obviously, the longer this stays in the headlines the worse it could be for GM,” he said.