General Motors CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting director David Friedman will testify before the United States Senate on April 2 about their respective parties’ handling of the ongoing GM ignition recall crisis just as two senators introduced a bill expanding public access to safety filings made by all automakers to the federal government.
Automotive News reports Barra and Friedman will take questions from the Senate Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection panel. Their joint appearance follows their first before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee the day prior. Both hearings are expected to seek answers to questions surrounding how both GM and the NHTSA responded in the move to recall the defective ignition switch found in a handful of 2003 – 2007 GM models.
Automotive News also says Senators Ed Markley of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced a bill which would require automakers to submit the first document of a fatality involving one of their products to NHTSA, who would then make said document and subsequent documents available to the public through an easy-to-use database. The bill reinforces the 2000 TREAD Act’s requirement of early-warning reports to be submitted to the agency, and to make that information accessible to the public.
Meanwhile, The New York Times reviewed 19 of 23 reported fatalities linked to the defective ignition switch, and found that GM either dismissed their link to the fatalities in question, or settled out of court under the veil of confidentiality. In one case, threatened to sue for reimbursement of legal fees unless lawsuits were dropped
One of the suits in question, settled between Georgia lawyer Lance Cooper and GM in 2013 — is finding new life as part of a 12-way lawsuit filed in San Francisco against the automaker over allegations that not every car affected by the defective part has been recalled, according to Automotive News. At the time of the suit, Cooper obtained hundreds of documents related to the part, along with depositions from a handful of engineers responsible, some of which are now making a public appearance in the new suit for the first time.
Separately, USA Today reports Alabama resident Steve Smith and attorney Jere Beasley have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Smith’s daughter, Aubrey Wallace Williams. Williams lost her life late last year when her 2006 Cobalt’s ignition switched off, causing loss of control that led to her crossing in front of an 18-wheel log truck. The suit comes after the recall news prompted a new investigation into Williams’ accident.
Finally, Detroit Free Press reports Niharika Taskar Ramdev will become GM’s new treasurer, who will oversee the automaker’s capital market activities and investor relations. Ramdev will report to newly appointed CFO Chuck Stevens, who says her main focus will be on “maintaining [GM's] fortress balance sheet, achieving investment grade credit ratings and developing a sustainable capital allocation strategy.”