A high-level GM executive told NBC News the company was "deeply troubled with some decisions that were made in the past and is hoping to move forward."
(Read more: GM pressured to pay crash victims)
In 2005, company engineers proposed that GM keys be altered to make the opening for the key ring smaller and reduce jostling of the key. Instead of changing the keys, however, GM designed an insert that could be added to the keys. It then sent a bulletin to dealership service managers that said the insert could be provided to car owners who came in and complained about ignition shut-offs. Under the program, according to GM warranty records, fewer than 500 drivers received the inserts.
"It has to be money," said Beth Melton, mother of Brooke Melton, who died in a crash on her 29th birthday in 2010. "It has to come down to money but that really doesn't even make sense to me. In the end, they're going to have to pay for it. They need to care about their customers. They need to care about human lives."
NBC News has examined depositions and internal GM documents from the Meltons' suit, which the Meltons settled with GM for an undisclosed sum.
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During testimony, GM engineer David Trush, who helped implement the insert fix, called the insert a "good solution" for a "very small population" affected by the problem.
"We put the solution out in the field," said Trush, "the solution that would solve some of the stuff."
The Meltons' attorney, Lance Cooper, then asked witness Gary Altman, who was GM's program engineering manager for the Cobalt in 2004 and 2005, if it was true that the car company "made a business decision not to fix this problem and five months later sold [Brooke Melton] a vehicle with the problem."