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GM customers ask U.S. judge to ramp up ignition recall efforts

By Jessica Dye

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two General Motors Co customers asked a federal judge in Texas on Monday to compel the automaker to warn owners to stop driving immediately the 1.6 million vehicles recalled since February over ignition switch problems.

Charles and Grace Silvas, who own a 2006 Chevy Cobalt, are suing GM for allegedly concealing the ignition defect for more than a decade, which they said caused recalled vehicles to lose value.

On Monday, they filed an emergency motion in U.S. District Court in Corpus Christi, Texas, asking a judge to order GM to issue a notice warning customers not to drive recalled vehicles until they have been repaired.

The Silvas' motion said a so-called "park it now" notice is the only way to ensure that no other drivers are affected by the ignition switch problem, which has been linked to 12 deaths.

"Any and every driver that is currently operating a recalled vehicle could fall victim to the defect, rendering the driver simply another tick on GM's ever-increasing death tally," the motion said.

A GM spokesman, Jim Cain, said in a telephone interview that the company has notified dealers and customers that the recalled vehicles are safe to drive, provided they use only the ignition key and remove any fobs or extra items that might cause the ignition switch to move from the "run" position.

Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law who specializes in product liability law, said it seemed unlikely that the Silvas' motion would succeed.

"I doubt there is enough clarity now about dangers for a judge to issue that type of order," he said by email.

GM announced the recall last month, despite learning of problems with the ignition switch in 2001 and issuing related service bulletins to dealers with suggested remedies in 2005. The company has apologized for how it handled the recall.

Since the recall began, the company has been hit with several lawsuits, including proposed class actions brought by the owners of recalled vehicles seeking to recover economic losses, including diminished resale value and compensation for losing use of their cars.

In a related development on Monday, Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked the U.S. Justice Department to force GM to establish a fund to compensate customers affected by the ignition switch problem.

On Friday, the automaker was sued by an investor who said the recall erased billions of dollars in value from the company's shares. GM was also hit with what appeared to be the first wrongful-death lawsuit since the recall on behalf of three teenage girls who were severely injured or killed in a 2006 crash.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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