— In a 325-page report on the reasons why General Motors took 10 years to recall millions of cars with a safety defect, example after example pointed to complete failures of GM to clearly see evidence right in front of its face.
Anton Valukas, a former federal prosecutor hired by GM to find out what went wrong, said everyone at GM had a responsibility to fix the problem. Instead, nobody took any responsibility.
The report shows a company hell-bent on cutting operating costs and living by what is called the "GM nod," described as what happens when everyone in a meeting would nod in agreement about how to fix problems, then leave the room and do nothing about the problems.
Documents show a company that hid from its responsibilities, even after receiving a $49.5 billion government bailout to avoid bankruptcy. After the bailout, GM described itself as the "new" GM when in fact the culture at the company never changed and nothing was "new."
While many people outside GM clearly saw a safety problem with the ignition switch, GM engineers thought it was a "convenience" matter and not a safety matter that should be fixed. Valukas noted how GM didn't want engineers to use certain words when writing reports and recommendations, such as the words ''defect" or "safety."
Calling the report "extremely thorough, brutally tough, and deeply troubling," CEO Mary Barra said 15 employees have been let go for their part in the catastrophe. Barra said over half those people are senior legal and engineering employees who were part of a "pattern of incompetence."
Barra, who has been with GM for 34 years, was cleared in the internal probe but expects to be called back to Congress for a second round of questions after already facing angry House subcommittee members. In the first round of questions in April, Barra said she didn't want to answer certain questions until after the Valukas report was complete.
Center for Auto Safety Letter Claims 2,004 Deaths/Injuries
The report comes three days after an auto-safety group that has doggedly pursued GM says the defective ignition switch fatality count is much higher than 13 and GM knows it. The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) identified 2,004 death and injury reports filed by GM on the models covered by the ignition switch recall through 2013.
Although CAS doesn't link all the deaths and injuries to the ignition switch defect, it does want GM to connect the dots on any defect-related accidents.
In a letter to attorney Kenneth Feinberg, CAS says all victims of ignition switch failures must be compensated by GM, which means GM should be doing more to track down victims. Feinberg is an attorney hired by GM to assist the automaker in helping victims of the defective switch.
CAS told Feinberg that GM is ignoring evidence related to victims, including Brooke Melton who died in her Chevy Cobalt when the car lost control and crashed into an oncoming vehicle.
“The defective ignition switch in the recalled Delta platform vehicles goes beyond the airbag failing to deploy. The vehicle loses the electric power steering and power brakes, which can lead to loss of control resulting in a crash.” - The Center for Auto Safety
Although GM is focusing its attention on the ignition switch debate, the automaker also expects to face questions about its recent recall of 2.4 million vehicles for completely different problems. In that recall, GM admits the vehicles were recalled after hundreds of complaints and 13 crash reports.