Sunday, June 8, 2014

Global Impact: Eleven Years Late, GM CEO Accepts Responsibility for Ignition Switch Defect That Killed 13, Injured Unknown Others

According to The Latin American Tribune, Detroit-based General Motors on Thursday (June 5) accepted responsibility for an ignition-switch defect affecting some 2.6 million recalled vehicles, a problem that went unresolved for ELEVEN years and resulted in at least thirteen deaths and unknown number of injuries.

The company said it has fired fifteen employees and disciplined six others for their role in the long-delayed recall of those small cars, which included Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions. 

GM also stated it will set up a compensation program for victims’ families and those seriously injured as a result of the faulty switches.

CEO Mary Barra announced these measures to employees gathered at the company’s headquarters in Detroit.

COMMENT: The announcement came after Barra received an internal report prepared by Anton Valukas, a former US Attorney who investigated the company’s response to the ignition-system defect.

The report is “extremely thorough, brutally tough, and deeply troubling. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to this company, it is enormously painful to have our shortcomings laid out so vividly,” Barra said. She added that the report left her “deeply saddened and disturbed.”

The report uncovered a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” in the company’s actions related to the defect, Barra said, adding that some employees failed to reveal information that could have saved lives while others refused to accept their responsibility.

“This should have never happened. It was unacceptable,” said Barra, who did not identify the employees who were dismissed or disciplined.

Regarding the compensation program, Barra said it will be independently administered failed to but indicate how large the fund would be.

“We are taking responsibility for what has happened by taking steps to treat these victims and their families with compassion, decency and fairness,” Barra said.

GM recalled some 2.6 million vehicles worldwide due to the defective ignition switch, which can lead to air bags not deploying in an accident.

Although some of the company’s employees were aware of the defect for more than a decade, GM did not start recalling the affected vehicles until February 2014.