DETROIT – The U.S. government’s auto safety watchdog is investigating whether General Motors acted quickly enough to recall 1.6 million older-model small cars in a case linked to 13 deaths.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday night that it opened the probe “to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls.”
The agency has the authority to fine GM as much as $35 million under legislation that went into effect late last year. Automakers must report evidence of safety defects within five days of discovering them.
On Tuesday, GM doubled the number of cars in the recall for faulty ignition switches. The problem has been linked to 31 front-end crashes that caused the 13 deaths. The company also issued a rare apology, saying its process to examine the problem was not robust enough when it surfaced about a decade ago.
A chronology of events filed Monday with NHTSA by GM show it knew of the problem as early as 2004.
On Feb. 13, GM announced the recall of more than 780,000 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s (model years 2005-2007). Then on Tuesday, it doubled up, adding 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts (2003-2007), and Chevrolet HHR SUVs, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars (2006-2007). Most of the cars were sold in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
American Airlines drops bereavement fares
DALLAS – American Airlines has ended its policy of extending special fares to passengers who must book a last-minute flight because of a relative’s death.
The move brings American in line with the policy at merger partner US Airways, which does not offer bereavement fares.
Walk-up prices tend to be the highest on any airline, putting family members in a bind when a relative far away dies or becomes seriously ill.
American didn’t have a specific discount for bereavement travel, but it had a different fare class that could produce a lower price than the traveler might otherwise find.
In a statement Wednesday, American said that it was making the change “to have a single, consistent program for American and US Airways.” It said that customers can buy changeable and refundable tickets, and they can apply future reservations to a last-minute flight and be eligible to waive the fee – usually $200 for a domestic flight – for changing their itinerary.
Consumer advocates have said that travelers can sometimes find lower prices than the airlines’ bereavement fares.
American and US Airways merged in December forming American Airlines Group Inc., which is based in Fort Worth, Texas.