New York: General Motors ordered new ignition switches months before it began recalling cars with the defective parts linked to at least 32 deaths.
The largest US automaker placed an "urgent" order for a half-million new ignition switches on December 18 to replace defective switches, a day after a meeting of senior executives, The Wall Street Journal said Sunday, citing emails between GM and its supplier Delphi Automotive.
That was almost two months before GM alerted federal safety regulators about the problem. GM, which is embroiled in lawsuits over the faulty ignition switches, only began its recall of some 2.6 million cars in February.
"It isn't uncommon for automakers, before a recall, to check on parts availability and place orders for parts," the Journal reported.
"Still, the major parts order will be used by attorneys representing thousands in class-action lawsuits against GM, which claim the automaker delayed informing the public of the problem for as long as possible."
The parts order was not disclosed by GM before the recall.
Delphi produced the emails during preparations for a court trial set to begin in January 2016 on the ignition problem.
Robert Hilliard, the lead attorney for the wrongful death and personal injury plaintiffs in a multi-state class-action lawsuit, said he had made the emails public.
"GM passed an urgent order of 500,000 new devices from Delphi to fix the ignition switch. They did not inform my clients," Hilliard said in a telephone interview.
"They did not tell the truth. They lied to Congress; they lied to everyone. I want to ask them to provide documents of their decision to purchase the devices. Congress needs to see it."
Hilliard said he would use the emails to seek damages for his clients. "They could have prevented so many crashes. They failed to do so."
GM is under investigation by Congress, regulators and the Justice Department over why it waited more than a decade after first uncovering the ignition-switch problem to start recalling cars.
The faulty ignitions could turn off power to a car's power steering and safety airbags while it is in motion.
As of yesterday, GM has confirmed 32 deaths in accidents linked to the problem.
GM shares tumbled 1.9 per cent to USD 31.00 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.