As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigates (and gets investigated) General Motors for the ignition switch recall tied to 13 deaths, there is a possibility that the organization could fine the automaker $35 million. And even though the fine would set a new record for the industry, it’s not what GM should fear the most.
Instead, The General’s worst fear most likely involves money-hungry lawyers looking to make a name and some money for themselves with product liability litigation. As of this writing, only one case has been filed, but we’re certain that more will surface in the coming months. In addition, scrutiny of the recall has expanded beyond the regulators at NHTSA, with two congressional committees having announced plans to examine the issue, and the Department of Justice also reportedly looking into the matter.
Even so, The General could potentially face an even bigger problem: as investigations, lawsuits, and associated media coverage continues, these events could tarnish GM’s corporate image, which has lately been on the upswing thanks to new products and the government’s divestiture in GM following the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy. So in the grand scheme of events, it’s possible that the fine by NHTSA could end up being a slap on the wrist for GM when compared to some of the other, non-governmental repercussions.