FORTUNE — General Motors GM and the U.S. Department of Transportation have agreed a settlement over the “timeliness” of GM’s reaction to the ignition switch issue that recently caused a recall of more than 2 million cars.

The settlement will see the Detroit automaker pay a record fine of $35 million, the maximum allowed. It will also see GM give total access to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association to investigate the company, according to a Transportation Department news release.

Speaking at a press event Friday to announce the settlement, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said GM had failed to meet its public safety obligations.

“They had that information, and they told no one,” he said, adding: “Crashes happened, and people died.”

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As part of the settlement, GM is also required to update the NHTSA of any changes to its plan to update parts.

The Transportation Department has the legal authority to fine automakers up to $35 million for improperly delaying a safety recall. A much bigger fine could be coming GMs way if the Department of Justice decides to issue its own penalty.

“No excuse, process, or organizational structure will be allowed to stand in the way of any company meeting their obligation to quickly find and fix safety issues in a vehicle,” stated NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. “It’s critical to the safety of the driving public that manufacturers promptly report and remedy safety-related defects that have the potential to lead to deaths or injuries on our nation’s highways.”