Newly revealed emails show that GM ordered half a million replacement switches nearly two months before alerting authorities to the problem—which would balloon into an auto-safety crisis linked to 30 fatalities and involving 2.5 million recalled cars, the Wall Street Journal reports. The email exchanges, between a GM worker and the company's ignition-switch supplier, start with an "urgent" order for the switches on December 18, 2013: "I would need to start seeing shipments ASAP," the worker writes. "Please put together and [sic] aggressive plan and I can adjust accordingly." The emails began a day after GM executives hashed out the ignition-switch problem at a meeting but opted to take no action.
A highly detailed 315-page report commissioned by GM on its handling of the issue makes no mention of the parts order. The report's author, Chicago attorney Anton Valukas, wasn't available for comment, but that didn't stop critics from reacting: "This order for 500,000 parts raises deeply disturbing questions about the validity of the Valukas report," says Sen. Richard Blumenthal. The report blamed the company's legal and engineering departments for dithering on the issue, and GM has "characterized the e-mails as a remnant" of the company's old culture, Bloomberg reports. Attorneys representing thousands of people in class-action lawsuits against GM will no doubt use the emails, the Journal notes. (Read more General Motors stories.)