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NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) ordered half a million replacement ignition switches almost two months before it alerted federal safety regulators of the issues that prompted a recall of millions of vehicles, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing email exchanges between the automaker and its supplier Delphi Automotive Plc (DLPH.N).
The email exchanges, which took place in mid-December 2013 between a GM contract worker and Delphi, indicate GM placed an "urgent" order for 500,000 replacement switches on Dec. 18, a day after a meeting of senior executives, the newspaper said. GM announced its recall in February 2014. (on.wsj.com/142qQhn)
Representatives for GM and Delphi Automotive did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the matter.
"This is simply mind-blowing in its raw evilness," said Bob Hilliard, lead counsel for the personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs in the Federal Multi District Litigation against General Motors.
"GM should have notified its customers immediately to take all weight off of their keychains. By the time GM actually ordered these parts, it had to have already spent months making the decision to place the order," Hilliard said in a statement.
GM has faced criticism for waiting 11 years to begin recalling millions of cars with ignition-switch problems that have been linked to fatalities. The switch in question can slip out of position, stalling the vehicle and disabling air bags. The defect led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year.
So far, 61 claims have been deemed eligible for compensation, including 30 deaths and 31 injuries.
A federal judge in Manhattan has set Jan. 11, 2016, for the first trial in consolidated litigation against General Motors over a series of safety issues, including a faulty ignition switch.
Reporting by Ashley Lau in New York and Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Chris Reese and Gopakumar Warrier