AUTO INDUSTRY NEWS

General Motors found liable for ignition switch problems

General Motors found liable for ignition switch problems image

Text: Eric Tipan / Photos: GM | posted June 11, 2014 06:22

At least 13 deaths and 1.6 million GM models have been linked to this problem.

General Motors has just received the findings of the investigation regarding a faulty ignition switch and swiftly made measures to compensate the victims and prevent similar incidents from ever happening again. 

After a number of injuries and at least 13 deaths associated with the problematic ignition switch, GM hires former U.S. Justice Department attorney Anton Valukas to lead an internal investigation on the matter.

The result is the Valukas report that GM CEO Mary Barra describes as "extremely thorough, brutally tough, and deeply troubling."  Barra expressed her deepest sympathy towards the family members who have lost their loved ones and to those who suffered physical injuries as a result of the malfunction.

Although no cover-up or conspiracy has been revealed on the part of GM, 15 individuals were found to have ‘acted inappropriately’ regarding the matter and have been dismissed from the company while 5 employees are undergoing disciplinary action.

“Overall the report found that, from start to finish, the Cobalt saga was riddled with failures, which led to tragic results for many,” said Barra.

GM Chairman Tim Solso noted that the report absolves top GM executives including Barra from any wrongdoing and that the company will work to meet the recommendations indicated in the Valukas report.

“We are taking responsibility for what has happened by taking steps to treat these victims and their families with compassion, decency and fairness.  We made serious mistakes in the past and as a result we’re making significant changes in our company to ensure they never happen again.” said Barra.

Barra addressed GM employees and quickly stressed that the company has adopted and will continue to adopt sweeping changes in handling safety issues.  The preliminary measures taken include:

  • Appointing Jeff Boyer as Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety, elevating and integrating GM’s safety processes under a single leader
  • Adding 35 product safety investigators that will allow GM to identify and address issues much more quickly
  • Instituting the Speak up for Safety program encouraging employees to report potential safety issues quickly and forcefully
  • Creating a new Global Product Integrity organization to enhance overall safety and quality performance, and
  • Restructuring the recall decision making process to raise it to the highest levels of the company.

"Together, we have to understand that the attitudes and practices that allowed this failure to occur will not be tolerated.  Also, if we think that cleaning up this problem and making a few process changes will be enough, we are badly mistaken. Our job is not just to fix the problem. Our job must be to set a new industry standard for safety, quality, and excellence,” Barra concluded.

The compensation program will be handled by Kenneth Feinberg and will cover 1.6 million models between the production years of 2003-2007 plus 1 million models from year 2008-2011.

GM estimates that the final guidelines for the compensation program will be drawn up by the end of July and has temporarily set August 1, 2014 as the first day of claims acceptance.