The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced late Wednesday that it has opened an investigation into "the timeliness of General Motors' recall of faulty ignition switches to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls."
Federal rules require an automaker to notify NHTSA within five business days of determining that it has a safety defect in its vehicles.
GM issued this statement Thursday: "We deeply regret the events that led to the recall and this investigation. As our detailed chronology indicates, we intend to fully cooperate with NHTSA and we welcome the opportunity to help the agency have a full understanding of the facts.
"Today's GM is committed to learning from the past while embracing the highest standards now and in the future."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the following statement:
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an investigation into the timeliness of General Motors' recall of faulty ignition switches to determine whether GM properly followed the legal processes and requirements for reporting recalls. The GM recall covers the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles. NHTSA urges owners and drivers to follow GM's recommendation to "use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring" when operating the vehicle and seek the permanent repair remedy from GM as soon as replacement parts become available. NHTSA will monitor consumer outreach as the recall process continues and take additional appropriate action as warranted."
The GM recall now covers 1.37 million vehicles in the U.S., plus an additional 253,519 in Canada and Mexico.
Involved are the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5 recalled Feb. 13, plus the 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and 2007 added to the recall Tuesday.
GM says owners will begin receiving notices in March, and dealers will begin replacing ignition switches in April.
The main, deadly, problem is that front airbags sometimes fail to inflate in a crash. The GM remedy is a new ignition switch that's less likely to inadvertently move from "run" to "accessory," which can kill power to the air bags.
There have been 31 crashes and 13 deaths now linked to the recall. Eight of the deaths were in crashes involving the Cobalt or nearly identical Pontiac G5, five in crashes involving the Ion.
By contrast, recalls involving Toyota sudden acceleration and so-called "sticky pedals" resulted in five deaths, NHTSA says.
NHTSA urged users of the GM vehicles named in the recall to heed the automakers recommendation to "use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring" when driving and to promptly get the recall repair done as soon as GM begins the repairs.
NHTSA said it would "monitor consumer outreach as the recall process continues and take additional appropriate action as warranted."