NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — General Motors ordered 500,000 replacement ignition switches nearly two months before it notified safety investigators of a problem with its cars tied to at least 30 deaths, according to a lawyer suing the automaker.
Such an order would be another blow to the credibility of GM, which has already admitted that its employees knew of problems with the ignition switches about a decade before the recall. But the company had been insisting that its top executives did not know of the problem until just before the February recall, and they acted immediately when informed of it.
GM’s December order to supplier Delphi was revealed Sunday night by Robert Hilliard, an attorney who is suing GM on behalf of some of the victims. GM spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.
Hilliard said emails show knowledge of the problem at top levels of GM months before it had previously admitted in congressional testimony or in an outside investigation conducted by the company. He said that 85 injuries and at least one death occurred during that time.
“This is simply mind-blowing in its raw evilness,” he said. The revelation “requires a reexamination of the truth of [GM CEO Mary] Barra’s involvement,” he said.
The flawed ignition switch could cause a car to switch to shut off while driving, disabling the airbag, antilock brakes and other safety features.
While GM did not have the replacement parts for months, the company has insisted that owners of the recalled cars could address the problem by removing all other keys from the key ring.
“GM should have notified its customers immediately to take all weight off of their keychains,” Hilliard said.