General Motors (GM) has been in the news a LOT this spring, and company officials cannot be happy with the press. In April, leaders in Congress grilled GM executives for days about the automaker’s role in allowing a dangerous, defective ignition switch to remain in GM vehicles for nearly a decade after engineers noticed the switch was a problem. This colossal incompetence/negligence endangered the lives of thousands on U.S. roads.
But the ignition switch fiasco appears to be just one piece of a larger puzzle. In today’s post and one that will follow, we will give a roundup of the big GM headlines for 2014 to put the company’s crises into context and explain what we’ll likely see in the upcoming months.
According to a May 25th report from Bloomberg News, General Motors increased its estimate for the number of crashes linked to the defective ignition switch to 47. GM still insists that the issue only caused 13 fatalities. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s David Friedman disputes that number, saying “the final death toll associated with the safety defect is not known to NHTSA, but we believe that more than 13 lives were lost.”
Meanwhile, Automotive News, an authoritative industry website, released more bad news for GM. Documents released by the NHTSA in mid-March “showed that engineers [at the company] were encouraged to couch their reports in jargon” to protect GM from liability. Instead of using straightforward words like “defect” and “problem” lawyers allegedly told engineers to use softer language like “issue” and “do not perform to design.” Sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking, which can in turn lead to sloppy engineering and lives lost.
In addition to the 13 fatalities tied to the defective ignition switch, “12 victims died in 10 separate accidents in 9 states and in Canada,” according to The Times. Those victims ranged in age from 13 to 81.
Fixing this big mess is not going to be cheap. A CNN Money report from May 24th found that all the 2014 recalls will cost GM $1.7 billion (thus far), and that this “essentially erases the profit that company reported in the first quarter.”
Investigators and the public obviously want to make sure that GM pays fair compensation to victims of these defective part accidents. However, the demands go deeper. The problematic processes responsible for allowing this debacle to unfold must be reformed. Likewise, the company should chastise (and/or remove from power) executives, engineers and managers who enabled the problems at GM. If no one fixes GM’s culture and processes, we are likely going to see more safety issues like the ignition switch defect pop up in the future – leading to more lawsuits, more lost lives and more damage to the reputation of the American auto industry.
For help dealing with your defective part case, call the Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys here at Regan, Zambri & Long today at (202) 463-3030.