Transport Canada has received nine complaints from drivers who believe their General Motors Co. vehicles may have been affected by the ignition switch failure that has led to the deaths of 13 drivers and is investigating two fatal crashes in Canada.
In the two fatal accidents, airbags failed to deploy, Transport Canada said, including a crash near Granby, Que., that led to the death of Dany Dubuc-Marquis, 23, of Granby, Que. The accident that killed him is listed as one of the 13 fatal crashes – the other 12 came on U.S. roads – but Transport Canada says it's still studying what role the failure of the ignition switch played in the death of Mr. Dubuc-Marquis.
The fatalities, crashes and recall of about 2.6 million vehicles arising from the failure of ignition switches in such GM vehicles as Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion compact cars, have led to lawsuits in both Canada and the United States, a $35-million (U.S.) fine levied against the auto maker by the U.S. government and promises that the company will change the way it addresses safety issues.
The failure of ignition switches led to vehicles stalling, which meant power steering systems failed and airbags did not deploy.
The federal department said it has been told by General Motors of Canada Ltd. that the Canadian unit of the Detroit-based auto maker had no knowledge that the ignition switches were defective before it issued two sets of recalls in February.
That raises questions about whether the federal government, which regulates vehicle safety under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, will be able to emulate what the U.S. government has done and levy a fine against GM Canada. The maximum fine for auto makers that violate the act is $1-million (Canadian).
"To date, Transport Canada's findings reveal no evidence of GM Canada's non-compliance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act," a department spokeswoman said in an e-mail. The department said last week that GM Canada informed it that the company first became aware of potential safety defects when it notified the government of the recall.
In the crash of the 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt being driven by Mr. Dubuc-Marquis, Transport Canada said his car went off the road and hit rough terrain, causing the key to move out of the run position. The investigation of the crash is examining how the key moving out of the run position affected the operation of the air bags, which did not deploy.
The department is still examining the other fatal crash to determine why the airbags did not deploy in that accident.