The death of 16-year-old Amber Marie, who died when her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt crashed the air bag failed to deploy, was an early warning in what would become a decade-long failure by G.M. and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to address a problem that engineers and regulators had been alerted to years ago.
For a resurgent General Motors, which has twice apologized, the recall is a major embarrassment as it tries to escape the shadow of its bankruptcy and government takeover. It has been sued, and now faces an investigation by the safety agency and the possibility of a criminal investigation, similar to the criminal inquiry Toyota is facing after recalls over the unintended acceleration of its vehicles.
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