By on April 2, 2014

Mary Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting administrator David Friedman both testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in the first of two congressional hearings focused on GM’s 2014 recall of an ignition switch whose issues the automaker nor the agency chose to act upon in a swift manner in the decade leading up to the recall.

The Detroit News reports the hearing between the committee and Barra lasted two and a half hours, and while the atmosphere was calm for the most part, the elusive answers Barra gave to some questions proved frustrating to the bipartisan committee. A possible reason for the vague responses provided by Barra: Any incorrect answers could come back to haunt the company via a charge of misleading Congress by the Justice Department, who is already conducting an investigation into GM’s handling of the recall.

She also pleaded her case for patience from the federal government while the internal investigation into the recall continues, and repeatedly stood by her talking points throughout the questioning. However, when the committee asked if GM would commit to delivering the final report from the internal investigation to Congress, Barra said her company would turn over “what’s appropriate.”

Meanwhile, she revealed GM had hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to guide the company’s executives for the next 30 to 60 days into deciding how the automaker will proceed to do “the right thing” by their customer base. Feinberg, who helped establish compensation funds for those affected by 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, may direct GM to create such a fund for affected owners whose vehicles were involved in crashes prior to the company’s bankruptcy filing in 2009, though Barra said she couldn’t commit to such a fund under questioning, opting to let Feinberg find “the best way forward.”

Following Barra’s testimony, Friedman took his turn before the House committee, defending his agency’s decision not to move forward with a formal investigation into the ignition switch issue, citing lack of data from General Motors in 2007.

He also explained that the NHTSA had voiced concerns about a number of problems GM hadn’t disclosed, such as the silent part-swap in April 2006 or the automaker’s talks with Delphi over air bags. In turn, the committee asked Friedman why his agency missed a number of red flags and failed to connect the dots in what the agency did learn from their dealings with GM. He said his agency followed proper protocol in its final decision in that there was insufficient information to press forward with a formal investigation. Friedman added that the NHTSA aims to improve this process, as well as increasing penalties for actions such as those demonstrated by GM.

The families affected by the recall witnessed the proceedings from the back of the hearing room, hoping to receive satisfactory answers from Barra as reminders of what the automaker’s poor choices had cost them hung above their heads. One of the affected, Mary Ruddy of Scranton, Penn., put it thusly:

I did not care for the answers from Ms. Barra. I thought she was very evasive, and if she’’s that evasive with the United States government… then how can we expect them to be honest with the general public.

Ruddy’s husband, Leo, also bemoaned Barra’s tactics before the committee, summing up the experience as if “it was like talking to Sgt. Schultz ["Hogan's Heroes"] — ‘I know nothing.’”

The Ruddys were among the families who met with members of Congress before a press conference calling for the establishment of a victims’ compensation fund, pulling affected vehicles off the road, strengthen current auto safety legislation, and a criminal investigation of GM by the Justice Department.

Finally, though the Chevrolet Silverado was knocked off of its pedestal by Ram’s offerings since 1999, Automotive News reports the fullsize pickup and its GMC Sierra twin helped boost GM’s overall U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in March by 4 percent to 256,047 vehicles. Overall retail sales also gained in March, rising 7 percent compared to the previous year.

As for the twins, Chevrolet’s sales rose 7 percent in March while GMC experienced a 21 percent growth, all of which is setting the place for upcoming product launches later this year, according to GM U.S. vice president of sales operations Kurt McNeil:

GM’s retail sales, like the weather and the economy as a whole, have been on an improving trend since early February. We expect to see solid economic growth in the months ahead, with the job market, household income and consumer spending all showing positive signs.

It is a strong backdrop for the launch of our all-new heavy-duty pickups, large SUVs and other new products, like the Cadillac ATS coupe coming this summer.

Transaction prices also went up in March, coming out on a record average of $34,000, as well as a 5 percent increase in commercial fleet sales; fleet sales fell by 5 percent in a planned reduction by the automaker.

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162 Comments on “Barra, Friedman Testify Before US House Committee...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “the automaker’s poor choices”

    This has not been proven. People die every day in GM’s cars. With limited resources (yes, even at GM and especially at the NHTSA), you can’t just run around recalling everything that MIGHT be a problem – until it is proven to be a problem.

    Unfortunately, the public doesn’t understand what constitutes proof of a problem. Singular events spread out over a decade are exceptionally hard to piece together.

    Based upon the summary here, I think Ms. Barra gave the best testimony she could have.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      You pose an interesting question. Clearly there was a problem here that was not identified, and not handled properly after it was. And a very catastrophic outcome for an identified population of victims. But I wonder how the “deaths per million miles” or whatever metric is used compares for the Cobalt vs Civic/Corolla/Focus/etc?

      • 0 avatar

        > But I wonder how the “deaths per million miles” or whatever metric is used compares for the Cobalt vs Civic/Corolla/Focus/etc?

        Thus far it’s quite low, esp if all models getting recalled is the basis.

      • 0 avatar

        As someone who does this research (and blogs about it on a daily basis), I can tell you that the death rate for the Cobalt is *much higher than that of the Civic, Corolla, Focus, or most other cars you can think of.

        • 0 avatar

          > I can tell you that the death rate for the Cobalt is *much higher than that of the Civic, Corolla, Focus, or most other cars you can think of.

          Do tell. We’ll be waiting so post here before getting on the line w/ all the insurance co’s reminding them all their data involving Cobalts are wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @SCE to AUX- well put! an apparent decision not to take action on what appeared to be a minor inconvenience that could be resolved by limiting what’s on the key ring to the key and remote fob is being spun into malfeasance, putting money above lives. With many millions of vehicle miles and exposure a handful of unfortunate incidents have emerged. NHTSA administrator said the agency acted appropriately based on data that showed no higher rate of air bag non deployment on the recalled cars than other vehicles. That is technical reality because data to show the event would occur a handful of times in millions of vehicle miles takes a long time to exist, let alone be understood.
      @indi300fan- the NHTSA guy said they didn’t even stand out for air bag non-deployment! They are safe cars purchased and driven by the spouses and families of these terrible engineers the media love to hate.

      • 0 avatar

        > NHTSA administrator said the agency acted appropriately based on data that showed no higher rate of air bag non deployment on the recalled cars than other vehicles.

        Dr olds presents one side of the issue: the incompetent safety investigators who according to GM took until 2013 to discover the ignition change at the root of the problem. To an extent this is understandable because it’s a genuinely hard category of problems even if those on the case aren’t exactly matlock.

        The other side of the issue is the design/validation crew who according to Delphi knew the ignition failed GM’s own specs but didn’t care enough about the product to do their job. Given we still don’t know all the details it’s a bit early to point to specifics, but GM quality culture certainly don’t look very good.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart Succinctly & Accurately Destroys Any Possible Defense of GM’s Actions (btw – GM knew about defective ignition switch since 2001):

          http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/li1grj/true-defective–gm—ms–barra-goes-to-washington

          • 0 avatar

            > The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart Succinctly & Accurately Destroys Any Possible Defense of GM’s Actions

            Air quotes “accurately”. For example, back in Jan GM was going through the routine of just another recall. It wasn’t until late Feb that it blew up all over the news as a “good story” a la Malay Air or any number of attractive white person in distress tales.

            The Daily Show is good comedy and may even be more accurate than the normal news, but these are not exactly high standards for truth.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Also, I think the photo demonstrates that she is not snorting cocaine, which is sets a positive example for America’s youth.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick Astley

      We disagreed on this topic prior. So far there seems to be enough information to have brought the investigation this far, and plenty of resources for GM to shield the extent of this problem (evidence of such being the piece meal additions to the recall notifications). Now, i’m not saying that they are guilty (as they haven’t been proven guilty yet). But there is a growing body of evidence and some interesting actions by GM as a result of this recall. Actions that most likely wouldn’t have been taken by a company which feels strongly in its innocence.

      Pre-bankruptcy GM had enough resources over the past decade to have had issues with the ignition during testing documented. Yet (apparently) too many resources to do anything about it but cover it with layer upon layer of good ol’ American freedom (excluding, of course, those who died as a result of the failed part).

      I don’t understand what constitutes a problem, according to you. As an example, i’ve got this annoying sticky drawer in the kitchen. I’ve replaced the sticking rail with an identical rail multiple times, and lubricated it when it starts to make noises. This same part, replaced years apart (additional rails were all purchased at the time of remodel) and I’m just unable to make the connection between this same part having the same issue spanning over a decade of use. Golly, wish I could understand if it was the problem with the parts.

      Now, perhaps the problem is that my limited resources had purchased many copies of the same part and they are plagued by the same issue. Any high priced lawyer could make a strong case that i’m completely in the wrong and potentially liable for slandering this fine drawer rail.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        You are over thinking this, Rick. The switches turn off a little too easy. Things like big bumps with heavy key rings occasionally turn the ignition off and in a small share of those cases can defeat the air bags if they occur during a crash. Bad news, but not evident in any data available at the time.
        An engineer apparently let slide a part with one of 60 monitored attributes below GM’s spec. The turning torque. Customer complaints seemed to be easily addressed by advising not to put heavy stuff on your key ring so the product team decided not to spend the money, somewhere along the way. No serious incidents were know at that time. The engineer changed some feature to bring the turning force up and apparently didn’t pull a new part number, apparently in violation of company policy, though I certainly don’t know the detailed facts.

        That increased the difficulty understanding these needle in a haystack incidents, and also led to the expansion of the populations recalled.

        GM built and sold millions of cars and serviced the ignition cylinder on about 80,000 of the cars produced after the “fix”.

        For fear they might have gotten service stock from before the design change.They decided to replace the switches in a million+ more cars to be sure every one of those 80,000 service replacements were good.

        • 0 avatar

          > An engineer apparently let slide a part with one of 60 monitored attributes below GM’s spec. The turning torque. Customer complaints seemed to be easily addressed by advising not to put heavy stuff on your key ring so the product team decided not to spend the money, somewhere along the way. No serious incidents were know at that time.

          It doesn’t take much “engineering” insight here to figure out the poor methodology of using customer “feedback” to dictate *safety* in design.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        ” But there is a growing body of evidence and some interesting actions by GM as a result of this recall. Actions that most likely wouldn’t have been taken by a company which feels strongly in its innocence”

        I would certainly agree on that. This could be a lot bigger than the Toyota Fiasco.It appears to be having negative affects on GM Pickup sales disregarding their other qualities.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          …Finally, though the Chevrolet Silverado was knocked off of its pedestal by Ram’s offerings since 1999, Automotive News reports the fullsize pickup and its GMC Sierra twin helped boost GM’s overall U.S. light-duty vehicle sales in March by 4 percent to 256,047 vehicles. Overall retail sales also gained in March, rising 7 percent compared to the previous year.

          As for the twins, Chevrolet’s sales rose 7 percent in March while GMC experienced a 21 percent growth, all of which is setting the place for upcoming product launches later this year…

          Not defending the lackluster performance of the refreshed GM pickups, but you did read the story? Right…

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      How has it not been proven?

      2001:

      Engineers experienced problems with the switches.

      2003:

      Saturn dealer tech notes that with items on the key ring it turns off easily. I work for an OEM supplier to the “Big 3″, Toyota, Honda, Nissan as well. Does GM not look at warranty claims? I know we’re involved with warranty directly with the assembly plants.

      2004:

      GM Engineer bumps the key in testing of a Cobalt. Proposed fix: Redesign the key which was shot down for being “too costly”.

      I’m sorry, but the evidence is pretty clear. People at GM knew there was an issue. If you have an issue in pre-production testing then that part should have been removed, torn down and had a full dimensional layout done to figure out WHY that happened. Even if it was a 1 in a million chance, then HOW could that part make it through the suppliers quality systems? The fix should have been implemented before the first Cobalt came off the assembly line, let alone how many tens of thousands more.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        If every part met your standard of not exceeding a 1:1,000,000 chance of failure, an A segment car would cost $250K. They would also last forever.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Perhaps the brilliant engineers of General Motors could simply figure out a way to make sure that one failure (in this case, that of the ignition cylinder) doesn’t produce another catastrophic failure (in this case, the shutdown of a critical safety item.)

          I would like to think that if my car is in motion that the sages who designed it would be sure that the airbag could still deploy, whether or not the engine is running. If the engine stalls while traveling at highway speed, for whatever reason, then it would be nice to know that the safety systems also don’t all go kaput at the same time.

          Creating a direct linkage between the ignition and the airbag system, with no backup fail safe systems in place, was obviously stupid. But in a corporate culture that values excuses more than results, these things are to be expected.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I completely agree with this overall assessment.

          • 0 avatar

            > Creating a direct linkage between the ignition and the airbag system, with no backup fail safe systems in place, was obviously stupid.

            I suspect this is how most cars work, and that doesn’t address the related issue of turning off randomly while driving.

            The bigger engimaneering issue isn’t the creation of dependencies per se but understanding them as part of the job. Should tests indicate cylinder torque is out of whack, it should raise some flags for those competent enough to see the link.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If the on-off switch of an airbag system is going to be directly linked to the key position of the ignition cylinder, then that calls for having a damned good ignition cylinder that can’t be compromised by fairly common human error, e.g. an overweight key chain.

            The linkage problem should be obvious. That we have someone who claims to be a former GM engineer here who doesn’t understand this does not bode well for the company as a whole.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            My questions from an engineering standpoint are:

            How do airbag safety systems work on other GM platforms of the period and today?

            How do airbag safety systems work on competing products?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I suspect this is how most cars work, and that doesn’t address the related issue of turning off randomly while driving.”

            “How do airbag safety systems work on competing products?”

            The passive restraint systems on *most* vehicles have a capacitance of up to 2 minutes for just this kind of situation. That’s why there are specific depowering procedures and warnings of potential deployment if they are not followed.

            I am not particularly familiar with the exact electrical configuration of the GM vehicles in question here, but I would be surprised to learn that they had *no* redundancy for the passive restraints in the event of ignition power loss.

          • 0 avatar

            > I am not particularly familiar with the exact electrical configuration of the GM vehicles in question here, but I would be surprised to learn that they had *no* redundancy for the passive restraints in the event of ignition power loss.

            I also expect these systems share common design across the industry given mature tech & common suppliers, but all indications thus far incl GM’s own testimony imply the ignition in acc makes a difference.

            I tried briefly to look up how these things are wired, but most material out there seem to be for techs and don’t cover that level of detail.

          • 0 avatar

            ^ I searched again w/ various scattered terms, and this incidentally came up for srs/can:

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-knew-about-deadly-defect-for-a-decade/#comment-2835233

            It’s implied here that srs is dependent on the sdm which is off in acc. OTOH if that were the case I’m not sure how GM/continental were able to determine key position for those accidents; maybe it’s a timing issue where it’s fast enough to catch the power-off, or just implied from the fact it’s off.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            Looking into it further, the fact that the airbag system was deactivated after key off likely has less to do with the bus turning the module off, than it does with the more limited capacitance of the system than I originally quoted.

            Depending on the vehicle, the actual designed potential deployment period after restraint module power loss, whether battery or ignition, is usually measured in seconds rather than minutes. The minutes figure is typically what’s quoted as a warning period after key off, but it doesn’t appear that most systems are designed to actually accomodate that.

            So if the drivers of these cars were able to maintain stability for any more than a handful of seconds after the ignition shut off, the capacitor in the module would have likely been discharged and unable to deploy the system.

            This is assuming the systems in these cars was designed this way, which would make sense given the nature of the crashes. While there are a lot of design and sourcing similarities, implementation between manufactureres can vary.

          • 0 avatar

            > While there are a lot of design and sourcing similarities, implementation between manufactureres can vary.

            The only implementation variation that makes a diff here is whether the srs loop is powered in acc. It evidently isn’t for GM, and maybe someone can stick a meter into other cars to find out but I suspect it’s same for most, like electric windows.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “2003:

        Saturn dealer tech notes that with items on the key ring it turns off easily. I work for an OEM supplier to the “Big 3″, Toyota, Honda, Nissan as well. Does GM not look at warranty claims? I know we’re involved with warranty directly with the assembly plants.”

        I could see how this issue might not be reliably caught via warranty claims analysis. The nature of the “failure” in this case could commonly be attributed in the service bay to customer error, or a characteristic of design, rather than an actual defect warranting replacement of the cylinder/switch. That’s if the concern was even verified at all.

        Since the early technical communications from GM concerning this issue was advising to remove heavy weight from the key ring, and eventually a new key design, the ignition cylinder itself was never really identified in service to be the root cause. So dealers wouldn’t have been replacing them en masse when a customer complained of the failure mode in question.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    If plausible deniability is your strategy, then yes Mary Barra did a great job.

    I’d like to see Ray DeGiorgio on the stand. Is he even scheduled to testify?

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The feds didn’t do anything because they became the biggest GM shareholder during their investigation…ie the bailout.. Then after they sell off their shares this all comes out!!? Not a coincidence.

    That’s the real glaring evil we see from this but it’s being totally ignored by the media.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      “Then after they sell off their shares this all comes out”.

      I think you mean OUR shares. The American taxpayer took a 9.7 billion dollar hit.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      “The feds didn’t do anything because they became the biggest GM shareholder during their investigation…ie the bailout.. Then after they sell off their shares this all comes out!!? Not a coincidence.”

      Blatantly obvious.

    • 0 avatar
      CapVandal

      Does anyone really think that the Treasury would talk to anyone in the Department of Transportation. They live on different planets.

      Not to mention, why would anyone do anything illegal to save someone else’s money? Especially the ‘taxpayer’s money’.

      You could argue about some theoretical conflict of interest, except isn’t a business and has no incentive to make a profit, whatever the term ‘profit’ might mean in the context of government.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Today’s automotive world lowlight sponsored by Bag’O’BrokenGlass Toy Company -

    GM avoided defective switch redesign in 2005 to save a dollar each

    WASHINGTON Wed Apr 2, 2014 9:38am EDT
    REUTERS

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/02/us-gm-recall-delphi-idUSBREA3105R20140402

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Other reports say $0.57.

      So what?

      • 0 avatar
        SayMyName

        What price human life? We’ll always make more.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          of course, that was not the decision basis.
          no life lost due to vehicle equipment failure in normal use is acceptable now, or at any time.

          unfortunately, the only way to accomplish this is to ban cars. they kill tens of thousands and injure millions every year, you know. Deadweight has even pointed out that they lose power assist when the ignitions are turned off, too!

          Sadly, all products have failures. in the world of reality, these cars don’t have air bag failure to deploy at any higher rate than others, according to NHTSA testimony.

          None of that argues against taking action now that potential risks are known.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          “What price human life? We’ll always make more”

          Past inactivity coming back to haunt them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Looks like the bean counters added to their kill tally.

        • 0 avatar

          There are valuations for human life (talk to any one who works in insurance) One of the calculation for taking a risk in insurance is cost and probability of death. I remember working for a company looking to expand liability coverage in power sports (atvs snowmobiles etc) the estimated death claims per year was pretty high per policy and they were young lives (worth more normally) so they decided not to do it. I’m sure GM has similar calculations.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @mopar4WD- GM has no such calculation.
            When a failure has a clear linkage to injury and death, action is taken without hesitation. My statement comes from being in the rooms, taking part in the discussions and witnessing the clear and immediate focus on protecting customers. The question posed is “would I feel comfortable having my loved ones drive these cars.”

            We know the engineers answered yes to that.

            GM does compare the performance of its vehicles to others. They provide the data and NHTSA collects it from every manufacturer in a huge database. NHTSA looked at all of the same data available to GM.

            NHTSA’s administrator, no friend to GM, testified that these cars had no higher incidence of the airbags failing in a crash than other makers.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Quite morbid, but thanks for the info.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    The families weren’t happy with CEO Barra’s testimony. Exactly what do they expect and want? What was she supposed to say? Having only been on the job for a few months I think she did quite well. I believe she wants to do the right thing and I believe she will. It will take time though.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      These hearings are not designed to uncover any new information but mainly about congress being seen to be on the side of the common folk and getting their face on TV.

      As for Mary Barra, of course she can’t say much as it would affect the outcome of the tsunami of legal cases that are about to engulf them. They are hoping for out of court settlements with most plaintiffs and that is undermined by admitting your guilt in public.

      • 0 avatar
        mypoint02

        +1. Nothing but political theater going on here. And of course she can’t say anything of substance because of the pending litigation. This dog and pony show accomplishes nothing. My sympathies to the families, but I’m not sure why they would expect anything to come of this.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    I love the elected inquisitors of Barra.
    Unmerciful and demeaning questions by a collection of incompetent government “managers”.

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    Forgive me for wanting to skip past the tears and hand-wringing and ask what, to me, is the larger question:

    The problem with the cars is that the ignition switches off unexpectedly. That’s it. The cars turn off. They don’t burst into flames, they don’t run away, they don’t steer, brake, accelerate, or transmute into another plane of existence. They stop running.

    This means that at least 13 drivers could not handle their car shutting off while in motion. At least 13 drivers were unable to overcome the loss of power steering and power brakes and bring their car to a safe and rational stop before they attempted to utilize the now-deactivated airbag system.

    Is this a testament to our nation’s driving incompetence? Is this apparent incompetence a result of laughable instruction (see the recent driving school article)? Is it the result of cars being so easy to drive poorly that any little malfunction results in a unprepared driver to completely lose control? Were we a better nation of drivers when drum brakes, bias ply tires, and lap belts conspired to attempt to kill us on a daily basis?

    When Toyota went through their UA concern, many people were asking why those drivers didn’t just shut the car off, or just put it into neutral. I don’t hear nearly as many voices asking why these GM drivers didn’t just turn the car back on, or safely stop the car. One would think a “runaway” car would be much harder to control than a dead one.

    Maybe it’s a result of having owned a plethora of really crappy cars, but I’ve never had an accident because one of them shut down while driving….and nearly all of my cars have died while driving. Are we really to the point that our national inability to drive results in dragging automakers before Congress to explain why their cars might cause us to prove that inability?

    For sure, GM should not make cars that turn off as a result of heavy keyrings and bumpy roads, but at what point is the driver responsible for the actions of the car?

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @pschoboy- Its far worse than that. Only in one settled case was there even an allegation that the switch turned off spontaneously and precipitated the accident. The details are sealed as part of the settlement.

      In fact, typical of the dozen cases were crashes in process where the ease with which the switch can be turned off is blamed for the air bags not going off. The “defect” thereby being responsible for them dying, not the crash.

      One publicized event of drunk driving involved going off road and jarred the switch before the car hit the tree at 80 MPH.

      The chain of events necessary for this to happen is so rare there are a dozen fatalities “linked” to the switch after all these years and millions of vehicle miles.

      • 0 avatar
        psychoboy

        So, it’s not that these drivers run into things when their car shuts off; it’s that these drivers run into things anyway, and the car shuts off in the process.

        oh…

        good.

        I guess.

        Twenty plus years ago, before every cavalier and sunbird had airbags, these drivers would have just died due to their own negligence, and nobody would have thought to sue GM over it?

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          That is pretty much it.

          There was one allegation the issue somehow caused a crash in that settled case.

          My dad was the MVSS compliance engineer for Oldsmobile in my teen years and talked a lot about his work and the business. Olds was the lead division for the first air bags. GM told the regulators that the regulatory demand that air bags deploy with sufficient force to protect un-belted occupants would kill others. They didn’t relent and we sold the first airbag cars. We used to joke that it would have been better to sell the air bag for the $8,000 cost each (including development and tooling costs) and throw in the 98 for free. GM dropped the early bags despite being 99% internally subsidized, they were priced at a couple hundred bucks, if memory serves, no one wanted them anyway.

          Fast forward to the ’80′s and a group of trial lawyers pursued a class action against the industry for “having the technology for air bags, but not implementing it”. My dad was brought back to help review a similar pile of hundreds of thousands of documents for GM to help understand it all.

          The lawyers go on fishing expeditions. Judges in the locales they choose, support those requests for immense quantities of information from manufacturers. They find something like a design change, and they build a case that it addressed a serious defect. Many are extremely rich. John Edward, disgraced presidential candidate got rich that way.

          • 0 avatar
            psychoboy

            interestingly…

            the fix for too easy to turn ignition switches has resulted in too hard to turn ignition switches…

            and the inevitable recall:
            #12045 Customer Satisfaction
            SUBJECT: Ignition Lock Cylinder May Bind – Replace Ignition Lock Cylinder
            MODELS:
            2009 Chevrolet Cobalt
            2009-2010 Chevrolet HHR
            2009 Pontiac G5

            THIS PROGRAM IS IN EFFECT UNTIL MAY 31, 2014.

            CONDITION
            Certain 2009 model year Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 vehicles, and 2009-2010 model year Chevrolet HHR vehicles may develop a binding condition between the ignition lock cylinder and the housing. If this occurs, it may be difficult to turn the ignition key and/or remove it from the ignition. If the vehicle is running, the driver may not be able to turn the vehicle off.

            CORRECTION
            Dealers are to replace the ignition lock cylinder.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            It’s probably just coincidence, though the higher turning effort move may have made the design more sensitive to one of the other 60 attributes varying. Then again, it could be something altogether different. I wouldn’t jump to any conclusion without deeper knowledge of the issue.

            There are very, very many opportunities for failure in the most complex businesses in the world.

          • 0 avatar
            gtrslngr

            Yeah , yeah Dr Olds . You just keep on spreading those GM lies . But in the end . GM’ll keep screwing up left and right as has been their want since the companys inception . Folks like myself will keep on laughing . But in the end its the likes of yourself that’ll be looking like an utter fool . As well as having to wake up each and every morning facing the lies you’ve been helping promote over the years .

            Sad really . But then again … just the fact of even considering working for the likes of GM is sad so …

            BTW Doc … you’re not perhaps in the process of restoring a 69 Old F85 now … are you ? ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            What’s sad is that every fact I gave you is public knowledge and irrefutable.

            You may want to catch up on you reading. GM is the Quality leader- the best car built is the Impala, and they are the best seller at the highest transaction prices, making big money in NA. More incongruence with your propagandized belief system, but reality.

            You won’t accept these facts either, no doubt.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Doc Olds, I think the world of your comments and experience but I’ve gotta say, I have to differ with you on the 2014 Impala being the best car built by GM.

            A couple of weeks ago when I was in Phoenix, AZ, for the MLB Spring Training season games, a member of my wife’s family drove a rental 2014 Impala to meet us there, while another member of her family drove there in a rental 2014 Camry.

            I don’t care for either one of those cars and would never buy one but IMO the old version of the Camry was head and shoulders better than the newer-engineered Impala.

            The first thing that irked me about the Impala was how the doors slammed shut, even without applying force, and how tinny they sounded. The second thing that annoyed me was the harder seats and ride (as a passenger).

            And the layout of the knobs and dials on the Impala dashboard, the position of the cigarette lighter 12v outlet when plugging in the Garmin. It was a bear to deal with from both the driver perspective as well as that of the passenger navigating trying to assist the driver.

            If the Impala is the best that GM has to offer, they can keep it.

            Understand I don’t care for the Camry either, but I prefer the soft ride, numb handling, cabin and control layout of the old-version of the Camry over that of the 2014 Impala.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @HDC- The Impala is not just the best GM car, it is the best car, period.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            GM’s own Zeta platform would beg to differ.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Sorry Doc, I can’t agree with you there. It must be in the eye of the beholder.

            I was in and out of that 2014 Impala for the better part of ten days going to the various MLB Spring Training games, and I even got to sit in the front passenger seat.

            We had to do quite a bit of driving to get to the different MLB stadiums in the Phoenix area, so I got quite a bit of seat time in. I don’t believe ANY of the other four men enjoyed that traveling experience either.

            Now, if you’re wondering why we didn’t take our JGC? That’s because you take a rental to a stadium in case someone breaks into your car while you’re watching the game.

            And sure enough, there were a lot of break-ins in the parking areas away from the paved parking/valet area. We didn’t get hit, but others did.

            Maybe the thieves didn’t think enough of breaking into an Impala when there were so many other (luxury) cars around to choose from.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            @HDC- It is not my personal conclusion, it is an objective independent judgment by consumer reports I am referring to. They have not been friends of GM either.

            I like the SS better, personally, because of its performance, though I do like the Impala’s fresher styling. Frankly, I haven’t driven or even sat in an Impala, so I don’t have an informed personal opinion of the car.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      “but at what point is the driver responsible for the actions of the car?”

      The irony is that the same math that dictates ‘acceptable’ loss at a corporate level also calculates the best settlement to avoid being found at fault.

      If you are EVER involved in a court proceeding with a fatality, you quickly learn that the ‘victim’ is a god-damned saint, no matter what they were doing at the time (or had done before.) Legal strategy will blame a victim only as a last resort, especially if they are dead, because in a juries mind, you are blaming a corpse that can’t defend itself.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The airbags didn’t deploy.

      That’s bad.

      This should not be difficult to understand, yet some of you struggle with a concept as simple as that.

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        Simple ideas for simple minds.

        Reality is not simple.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Only a GM engineer could think that an airbag’s failure to deploy is the fault of the customer.

          You can up the ante, and blame the Japanese, the dollar-yen exchange rate, the EPA or the unions for the failure. Anyone but GM management, who are next to godliness.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            Inner child?
            You were rejected by GM because you were not up to the job. You lecture on things you are intellectually incapable of even understanding, let alone doing or being employed at.

            You single mindedly focus on liability as you lecture that is not the issue. Your logic skills are clearly weak.

            I have expressed the facts that the accidents happened for reasons unrelated to the bags deploying. The accidents are clearly not the cause of the airbag failing to deploy after the accident occurs. Simple logic should help you understand that, but your inner child has to come out, and logic fails.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I must have hit a bit close to home there. Surely, you must realize that blaming the customers for airbag failures only reflects poorly on you.

            As for myself, I’m not sure to which job you are referring. While I was attending university, I applied for a paid summer internship with GM. I was offered the job and I accepted it. At the end of that summer when the job was over, I was invited by my boss to return if I was interested in working there again.

            Quite the opposite of rejected, obviously. But I wasn’t interested in turning it into a career. Even as a student, I found the culture (or at least the part of it that I saw) to be dysfunctional on the whole.

            Although I did like many of the people individually, including my boss, the culture and bureaucracy seemed to work against them collectively, resulting in the whole being less than the sum of the parts. Why would I have possibly wanted to devote a lifetime to that?

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          “GM is the Quality leader- the best car built is the Impala, and they are the best seller at the highest transaction prices, making big money in NA. “. Do you have any stats/proof/evidence of that? You lost a lot of credibility with a lot of people when you said that. Sorry that you babble with typical GM arrogance/ignorance proclaiming that GM products are the best in the world!

          • 0 avatar

            I take it you do not surf the internet very often. You really need to get out there…

            http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2013/07/2014-chevrolet-impala-highest-scoring-sedan-consumer-reports/index.htm

          • 0 avatar
            wmba

            Perhaps like others, I fail to see how CR proclaiming the Impala the best overall driving car according to their strange criteria has anything to do with Dr Olds proclaiming that GM is the “quality leader”, a fatuous proclamation.

            When Dr Olds came bouncing out of the woodwork in 2010 or so, he demonstrated time and again he could not see the forest for the trees. It was as if the bankruptcy had never happened, that GM had not destroyed over $70 billion of shareholder value in a mere 8 years, and that it was just the market that humbled GM.

            We are now getting the updated version of this wilful blindness, wherein GM can do no wrong, and where he claims he is only presenting “facts”.

            The real problem is that he actually believes he’s correct. Completely brainwashed and happy.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            GM dominated the most recent JD Power Quality survey. That is the factual data that my statement rests on.

            In the recent past, they have been far ahead of any other maker but Toyota, who they just surpassed.

            The fact they get the most money per unit and sell the most most vehicles in America is more data that supports my statements.

            I came here in around 2008 after googling, Will GM survive” or some such.

            I was amazed at presumptuous twits, and actually thought to inform with facts and logical arguments which inevitable devolve in the uninformed idiot attacking me personally as knowing nothing.

            The propaganda machines are so effective, rejects, no-nothings lecture those with real world experience on things they don’t comprehend and are intellectually incapable of being employed doing.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        BINGO!

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “Maybe it’s a result of having owned a plethora of really crappy cars, but I’ve never had an accident because one of them shut down while driving….and nearly all of my cars have died while driving.”

      So all of your cars had electric assist power steering? Do we actually know if the amount of effort needed in a traditional hydraulic vs an electric setup?

      Also you can speak for YOUR experience, you can’t speak to what those drivers were going through at all.

      The electric assist failed in our Cobalt on one occasion, in the middle of a turn. It never acted up after that, but certainly was a shock. Could have been a serious accident, luckily there wasn’t any other cars around.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “Maybe it’s a result of having owned a plethora of really crappy cars, but I’ve never had an accident because one of them shut down while driving….and nearly all of my cars have died while driving.”

        … and most of them were GM. This is why I bought my last new GM automobile in 1987. Not because of anything written here or anywhere, but through my own personal experiences with anything GM and all the mysterious stallings and things that went wrong, or didn’t function, or broke off in my hand, for V8-6-4s and exploding diesels, for Cimarrons and all those little things that said GM thinks I’m a chump. That’s why I haven’t set foot in a GM showroom in 27 years

        After reading through all this, I see it’s business as usual at GM and there’s no reason to change my position. It’s true that there’s a sucker born every minute and GM is right there to take it away from him.

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          Interestingly, I’ve only ever owned one GM product, a 1984 suburban I bought in 1999. It would die if you stabbed the throttle just wrong, but that was the fault of the aftermarket carb that a previous owner installed, not GM.

          I’ve owned several 4th gen Honda Civics and Nissan Hardbodies…none of them particularly nice, all of them in the $250 to $750 range. Once they get old enough, the civics start having problems with the contacts in the electrical end of the ignition switch and the Hardbodies are just Nissans. Restarting on the fly at highway speeds just becomes second nature after a while, certainly no cause for careening into a tree.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Bias ply tires…with tubes!!

    Oh boy, those were dangerous. They would deflate at a “blow up” timeframe, and at highway speeds, fully shred to pieces.

    The first time I experienced one such incident, it caused me to swerve into the opposing lane. Heavens were with me that day, as there was no oncoming traffic, and the guy behind me was a good hundred yards away and could safely brake down (even with its drum brakes).

    But the second time I was better prepared. In those pre-air conditioner, pre-power steering, AM-only radio days, I felt and heard the bump-bump-bump for a few precious seconds, and had already started to slow down and had my steering wheel fully gripped.

    Nowadays, the vehicles insulate the driver so much from the road, and have so many electronic nannies, that I agree with you, we have become much more careless drivers.

  • avatar

    I sold hundreds of these vehicles and have never heard of a single ignition switch failing. then again, it would have been proper to warn the public that excess key chain weight could be problematic.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The ignition in our 05 Cobalt hasn’t “failed” but it’s certainly loose. Even new when compared to the Civic and Neon parked in the driveway of the same vintage it was much easier to turn. Oddly enough the Chrysler had the key that had solid “clicks” into RUN and OFF.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Warning the public means admitting your culpability.

  • avatar
    geeber

    As each day passes, I’m beginning to believe that Dan Akerson’s departure from GM was timed a little TOO perfectly.

    As bad as it is for GM right now, it would be even worse if he were in the hot seat, as opposed to Ms. Barra.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      I’m not the president nor even a member of the Dan Akerson Fan Club, but I’m pretty sure that his wife didn’t choose to get cancer just so that he had an excuse to quit.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        He rather quickly took a position at the Carlyle Group. And shouldn’t he be asked to testify, too, given that he was the CEO while most of this was happening at GM?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          He’s an “advisor to the Board.” I’m not sure what he’s doing exactly, but it sounds like an (overpaid) part-time gig that comes from having buddies at the company (which would be a lot like being a board member.)

          As for testimony, we could possibly have a reprise of the Rick Wagoner Goes to Congress show. (The first season made for such compelling viewing…)

          • 0 avatar
            geeber

            Okay, that makes more sense (regarding his position at the Carlyle Group). Thank you.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            This is one of those stories that just snowballed beyond the control of the company.

            What was supposed to have been an uncontroversial one-off recall of Cobalts and G5 has turned into an onslaught of recalls and intense scrutiny. You can thank Lance Cooper (the attorney for the estate of Brooke Melton) for putting this into the spotlight. I doubt that anyone at GM was expecting this to turn out like this.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Dr. Olds, you are being entirely too knowledgeable and even-handed. On Internet discussion threads, Manichaeism is the official religion.

    • 0 avatar
      gtrslngr

      Dr Olds is but one of the many GMs online shills / apologists .. paid or otherwise .. that the company is so desperate to keep active in order to feebly try and defend their abject and hideous decades old reputation . Which is to say .. Dr Olds is as up to his neck in Lies / Blame Shifting / Smoke & Mirrors / Hype & Hyperbole as much as anyone even vaguely related to GM.

      Knowledgable my @$& . More like promoter of blatant propaganda in the name of GM ..

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        I tell nothing but the truth, as a matter of fact. I strive for intellectual consistency, defending Toyota when they had their turn in the barrel, Audi, too.

        I was there, not on this switch, but on many others. I relate data and facts.

        No doubt it is so incongruent with your propagandized belief system you have to resort to attacking me and attributing dark motives.

        My only motive is always the truth.

        • 0 avatar

          Stooge.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          Yet you never cite anything to prove your “truth”. Sorry, anyone can talk smack on the internet. Spewing forth “GM is just the bestest ever!!!! The customers are stupid!! NOT the company!!! gains you few admirers.

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            This is a comment section, not a forum. Nobody here has to “cite” anything just because people won’t look it up on the internet. It’s helpful to point out where to look, but these are comments, not theses.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            I related the real facts of the situation, all of which are public knowledge.

            I explained the mechanism that can and very rarely did lead to air bag non-deployment.

        • 0 avatar
          LALoser

          The hive is after ya Doc. I understand the discussions, decisions and parameters of action against schedules. In todays fast paced world we still have failures. Some are not evident right away, a lot of times it requires several people bringing together different scopes. A lot of multi-million dollar projects have issues everyone wonders how it happens, resulting in building failures, space shuttles and Pintos blowing up, people sickened from pre-packaged salads to ocean liners sinking.
          Corporations are demanding more and supporting less the Project Managers in almost every industry. I have personally lived it and witnessed it.

        • 0 avatar

          Amen Brother! I am with you. We seem to be a minority in the automotive blogosphere…

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    If i post anymore criticism/facts/responses on the GM articles here I swear I’ll wind up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome . So … methinks I’ll take a break .

    And what the heck . GM’s now doing more damage to itself on a daily if not minute by minute basis [ being the incompetent head in the sand morons they are ] than I could ever imagine doing myself over an entire lifetime .

    But keep up the good work GM [ as well as all you pathetic GM apologists/shills/fanboys ] … you keep working at it … and I’ll keep right on laughing .. for at least as long as my lung’s will hold out that is .

    Oh … BWTM and one last … The transcripts from Mary Baras testimony . Yeah …. she’s been thoroughly indoctrinated into GM’s culture of Lies / Blame Shifting / Smoke & Mirrors . No wonder they hired her as the Official Scape Goat

    • 0 avatar
      mitchw

      Vladimir Martynov, right? And no, Dr Olds isn’t who you think.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      “And what the heck . GM’s now doing more damage to itself on a daily if not minute by minute basis [ being the incompetent head in the sand morons they are ] than I could ever imagine doing myself over an entire lifetime .”

      Not a good look at all, then add the MASSIVE number of recalls on non-related items..Pretty bad.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    On a quiet night, can you hear GM’s market share shrinking?

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    i remember when GM ignition switches had a big chrome collar type thing with tabs that you inserted the key into, then turned the whole collar.

    when did they get rid of that? i know they were used up until the early 90s and the 73 chevelle and 75 wagon i used to drive had em.

  • avatar
    elimgarak

    Regardless of this, IMO GM will need another bailout to survive within 20 years and I don’t think they will get it. I am 95% certain GM will not exist before I die.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @elimgarak
      Very much agreed. Showing signs of a company with very little direction, I expect it will”fall over” in the next 5yrs.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Objective, rational observers recognise that this ignition switch crisis will be magnitudes larger a challenge for GM than the UA crisis Toyota just recently resolved (at least on the regulatory level).

      Equally important, GM is now facing a three front war/assault, whereby they need to tend to:

      1) Regulatory scrutiny

      2) Personal Injury (tort) AND diminution in value of vehicle litigation, and

      3) Attempt to challenge and overturn their bankruptcy petition that was previously approved, and which wiped out billions in creditors’ claims, as a product, at least in significant part, as a fraud on the bankruptcy court.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Regarding point two, I was under the impression “New GM” is not liable for damages of product prior to 2009, only recalls of said product. I imagine the wrongful death suits will hit a wall over liability and the suits regarding lost resale will just be dismissed.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          GM is on solid ground vis-a-vis its lack of liabiity for pre-bankruptcy crashes.

          This company did not exist prior to 2009, and has no contractual obligation to pay for incidents that occurred prior to its existence. Just because there are trial lawyers who would like to argue otherwise doesn’t mean that those lawyers will win.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Should be interesting to watch. Does Chrysler have similar legal protection to your knowledge?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Pch – There are some prominent legal authorities in the form of attorneys and legal scholars who would beg to differ with your claim that GM is “on solid ground” regarding using its BK filing as a successful shield for pre-2009 incidents.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            In the absence of an agreement, there should be no liability for anything that occurred prior to a company’s existence.

            The twist here is that “New Chrysler” and “New GM” both agreed to accept responsibility for repairing and recalling these pre-2009 vehicles. That liability was included the purchase and sale agreements, and was not a matter of bankruptcy law, per se.

            The theories that argue for pre-2009 crash liability going to the new company are contorted. I wouldn’t expect those arguments to go very far.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            28 – No one has asserted in legal pleadings that Chrysler hid a substantial, known liability (or known potential liability) from the federal bankruptcy court per its filing of bankruptcy petition, as far as I know.

          • 0 avatar

            > There are some prominent legal authorities in the form of attorneys and legal scholars who would beg to differ with your claim that GM is “on solid ground” regarding using its BK filing as a successful shield for pre-2009 incidents.

            These must be the same legal “authorities” who made all sorts of claims during the BK. You might want to check out how those turned out.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            DW, you have to understand how the law works.

            You can find lawyers to argue anything. There are always alternative arguments available that might sound convincing to laymen, but that doesn’t mean that those arguments carry any weight in a court with a judge ruling on motions and opposing lawyers making counterarguments.

            The question is whether those arguments actually have a chance of prevailing. They aren’t particularly compelling arguments — the only reason to argue them is that it won’t cost much to try, while the possible payday would be large if those fringe arguments did prevail. Old GM offers no deep pocket while New GM does, hence the motivation.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @DW

            Ah true but Chrysler ha a wild ride of its own in the 2000s and put out a number of ill advised products. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar situation did not play out and it just has not come to light (not knocking Chrysler specifically, I just believe stuff falls through the cracks at a company in chaos).

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            >> GM is on solid ground vis-a-vis its lack of liabiity for pre-bankruptcy crashes.

            Don’t be so sure. The BK won’t stop the DOJ. The criminal investigation could also turn up documents that could help in the civil cases.

          • 0 avatar

            > Don’t be so sure. The BK won’t stop the DOJ.

            The DOJ “settle or we’ll drag your name out in the press for a few years” strat is rather different than actual legal merit, though.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Hence the significance of #3.

          GM has already set the precedent for tort liability (via settlement of wrongful death suits) already, arguably, and will be less likely to successfully assert bankruptcy as a defense in pending or future claims (even if a two-tiered “fund” is established to try and keep the bankruptcy client’s effects intact).

          As to other claims (warranty, diminution of value on pre-2009 vehicles, etc.) #3 becomes a major issue for “new” GM.

          Lawsuits have already been filed en masse regarding #3.

          • 0 avatar

            > GM has already set the **precedent** for tort liability (via settlement of wrongful death suits) already, arguably

            That word doesn’t mean what you seem to think it does, and arguably folks who don’t know how law works make legal claims at peril of their own credibility.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            If I were a judge I would throw out “diminution of value” suits (but then again I’m not in the legal field).

            @DW

            I was thinking a “we admit no culpability but here’s some money” fund will be set up but I suspect if this happens its just blood in the water for all sorts of other stuff to come out of the woodwork.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            ums – Look up “party admission” when you have spare time.

            Even assuming that any settlements to date were structured in a way to attempt to create the highest level of confidentiality – a safe assumption – once legal fraud comes into play, all bets on such confidentiality clauses are off.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Fraud is very difficult to prove. The lay use of the term “fraud” is a lot broader and more generic than how it is used in court.

          • 0 avatar

            > Look up “party admission” when you have spare time.

            Are you advising this as someone aware of the relevant legal topic or just something off some blog post that happens to agree with particular personal disposition at the time?

            In case of the latter, perhaps it’s best to nark so we can laugh at them instead of you.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Pch – Agreed. The elements of fraud are so difficult to prove in terms of legal proof by even the civil jurisprudence burden of proof (versus the criminal burden of proof, which is a static “beyond a reasonable doubt”), that it is relatively (RELATIVELY) rarely asserted in civil litigation (though “misrepresentation” is it’s civil “fraud light” surrogate, and is pleaded frequently), and is often withdrawn in various stages of litigation already under way when discovery fails to yield evidence of the elements necessary to have plead fraud in the court’s estimation of what is “good faith.”

            In the GM case at hand, however, it’s possible that there is an existing paper trail related to the ignition switch issue that increases the possibility of such a claim of civil fraud not only being successfully pleaded, but proven by the relevant burden of proof (see model jury instructions to glean Elmer re of civil fraud that must be established in federal courts and *most* state courts).

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            ums- I am the last person to engage in blind knowledge challenges via the internet with people I do not know, but I have serious doubt that your knowledge of the law (theoretical or applied) approaches mine.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Wouldn’t the case fall more under negligence than fraud?

          • 0 avatar

            > ums- I am the last person to engage in blind knowledge challenges via the internet with people I do not know, but I have serious doubt that your knowledge of the law (theoretical or applied) approaches mine.

            Interesting. Perhaps one day you’ll figure out that the civil fraud you’ve been waving hands and flapping gums about above is a “tort” by definition. Until that day comes it’s best for everyone to avoid legal advice from those unaware of what the word mean.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            28- Based on what I have read so far, if GM employees had actual knowledge (or possibly “constructive knowledge; i.e. should have known by “reasonably prudent person” standard) of the ignition switch defect as of the time their BK petition was filed, yet failed to disclose this in any way (nor the broader ramifications of it, to wit, civil litigation in any form) on the face of its petition, it’s not a theoretical stretch to argue that fraud may be able to be proven.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            The new company is not liable for the old company, except to the extent that it agreed to be liable, as is the case for the recalls of pre-2009 vehicles.

            If the old company failed to disclose its liabilities to the new company and the court, then the logical thing to do would be to reduce the purchase price that New GM paid for Old GM in order to compensate New GM for the reduced value of the enterprise, which in turn would reduce the amount of money available to the plaintiffs in their efforts to collect from the old company.

            All told, the lawyers for the car owners are on weak ground. But filing a complaint is cheap, so it can’t hurt to try.

            Incidentally, here’s the complaint for the Brandt case. Not exactly compelling stuff: http://content.clearchannel.com/cc-common/mlib/1229/03/1229_1394875489.pdf

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            ums – Where/When did I state or imply that fraud is not a civil tort?

            It most certainly is a tort in civil jurisprudence as well as an offense in criminal jurisprudence (one requiring specific intent).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Fraud in my mind is a purposeful act to deceive which causes damage (I realize the legal definition is probably more succinct). I suppose one could argue Mr. DeGiorgio deliberately did not change the part number as an act of fraud (to cover up the problem), but proving it would be another matter. But as Pch101 points out, Mr. DeGiorgio was an employee of a different company than “New GM” so even if he intentionally covered up the problem through fraud I don’t see how the new company is technically liable.

            I wasn’t alive in the 70s but this whole case feels very “Pinto” to me. The GM ignition part was something like 47 cents, right?

            “Ford allegedly was aware of the design flaw, refused to pay for a redesign, and decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits. The magazine obtained a cost-benefit analysis that it said Ford had used to compare the cost of repairs (Ford estimated the cost to be $11 per car per year) against the cost of settlements for deaths, injuries, and vehicle burnouts . The document became known as the Ford Pinto Memo.”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Pinto

          • 0 avatar

            > and – Where/When did I state or imply that fraud is not a civil tort?

            “The elements of fraud are so difficult to prove in terms of legal proof that it is relatively rarely asserted in civil litigation”

            LOL. Fraud is of the most common economic torts.

            Srsly, the time to stop digging was before your first comment.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Fraud requires an attempt to deceive AND to gain something that one otherwise would have not obtained.

            The victim of a fraud committed by Old GM would be New GM. If New GM overpaid because of a lack of knowledge, then it’s the losing party.

            The car owners are in the same place that they would have been otherwise. The Old GM is dead, and it would have been dead with or without a reorganization. The owners of those cars have a beef with the old company, but unforunately for them and their lawyers, that company is broke and on the verge of disappearing.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Quick sidebar: New GM had to buy something from Old GM?

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            New GM acquired the good assets of Old GM by purchasing them via the 363 sale.

            New GM bought the post-BK recall liability. It didn’t buy the pre-2009 crash liability.

            Normally, new companies don’t buy anything bad from the old company if they can avoid it – why would they? But in this case, New GM did buy the recalls and presumably paid a purchase price that accounted for the contingent liabilities associated with that particular obligation.

          • 0 avatar

            > Quick sidebar: New GM had to buy something from Old GM?

            PCH is perhaps the relative expert on econ torts which reflects in his explanation above.

            DW is just confused because whatever blog he read was referring to intentional torts within which fraud means something else.

            These are somewhat nuanced matters where proclamation by rank amateurs mean nothing. Even if GM as a whole hid this matter, there need to be evidence they did so specifically in the context of BK to puncture that barrier.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thx for the clarification. So Old GM concealed information from New GM and got a better price for the recall liability. Now I understand your argument better.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Although there can be slight variances in jurisdictional requirements to establish elements of fraud in civil litigation, the following set of elements is fairly close to the “model standard” across all jurisdictions, whether in federal courts or various state courts, and will hopefully help lead to a clearer understanding of what must be proven by the relevant burden in order to prevail on a claim of civil fraud (from a well known case):

            1) There was a material representation made that was false;

            2) The person who made the representation knew the representation was false or made it recklessly as a positive assertion without any knowledge of its truth;

            3) The person who made the representation intended to induce another to act upon the representation;

            and

            4) The person to whom the material representation was made actually and justifiably relied on the representation, which caused the injury.

            See Ernst & Young, L.L.P. v. Pac. Mut. Life Ins. Co., 51 S.W.3d 573, 577 (Tex. 2001)

          • 0 avatar

            > Although there can be slight variances in jurisdictional requirements to establish elements of fraud in civil litigation,

            You know, this conversation would be a lot easier if we can discuss whereever you’re copy/pasting this from instead of through an inconvenient proxy.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “So Old GM concealed information from New GM and got a better price for the recall liability.”

            I don’t think that anyone concealed anything.

            But even if they did conceal something, it makes no difference.

            Old GM is on the hook for the pre-BK crashes.

            New GM is definitely not on the hook for those crashes, as a matter of contractual agreement.

            Old GM doesn’t have much cash to pay those people. Furthermore, the amount of cash that is available was not impacted by the disclosures or lack thereof. The car owners have no case.

          • 0 avatar

            > But even if they did conceal something, it makes no difference.

            Technically what DW is copy/pasting doesn’t appear to be econ tort, but it’s hard to tell for sure because he doesn’t know himself.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            If I understand it correctly, the argument being made is that Old GM committed fraud against the car buyers and that the subsequent bankruptcy was a sham, which would mean that New GM and Old GM are one in the same, which means that the New GM balance sheet is up for grabs.

            That’s a fairly desperate argument to make. There’s just nothing substantive to back it up. I don’t see that going very far.

          • 0 avatar

            > If I understand it correctly,

            Let me explain what’s going on here. DW started this thread about “fraud”. PCH as financial expert naturally assumed this implies economic torts which he applies in this context. However it turns out that DW actually meant intentional tort, thus misleading everyone for a bit.

            Now let’s provide example of said intentional tort. Say someone sues DW for fraudulently misguiding the conversation thus resulting in their utter confusion. This means they need to somehow prove that was his *intention* from the start, over the more reasonable counterarg that DW never pointed out the discrepancy because he wasn’t aware of what the words on the blog he was reading meant.

            Finally, consider how that type of case works out in the context of GM, an organization rather well known for this sort of incompetence given it’s in large part what drove them to BK in the first place.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I think that the problem is that the laymen are under the impression that there is a single company called General Motors.

            But there are two separate companies here. The Old GM (now called Motors Liquidation) owns these lawsuits for pre-BK crashes.

            The New GM doesn’t have responsibility for those crashes, and there’s no reason to think that it does. Those deaths occurred before the company existed, and it didn’t agree to take them.

          • 0 avatar

            > The New GM doesn’t have responsibility for those crashes, and there’s no reason to think that it does. Those deaths occurred before the company existed, and it didn’t agree to take them.

            I guess according to the legal “authorities”, the intentional “fraud” (to kill drivers with bad/cheap parts or who knows what) somehow overrides/invalidates the BK because it was conducted on that fraudulent basis instead of financial insolvency, thus exposing New GM’s money to them.

            This doesn’t make much sense, but that’s not really the messenger’s fault.

      • 0 avatar
        mitchw

        Is there leverage available for plaintiffs’ attorneys who want to come after New GM, if they threaten to challenge the bankruptcy agreement? New GM may just want to pay everybody off in exchange for not having the separation of New and Old GM tested in a court case.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’ve seen it thrown around a lot in these threads but what actually constitutes a “too heavy” keychain?

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      She said in front of Congress this morning that her engineers found that if drivers used only the ignition key in the lock, the car would be safe to operate.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        So even connecting the unlock/lock button fob to the ignition key would be too much?

        Did GM do any research to see how many people actually drove this way before making a decision?

        There is a big difference between “don’t drive around with the weight equivalent of 20 keys” and “don’t put anything with the ignition key”.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Yeah, that would be my guess since they only showed the key inside the lock during the Senate hearing and Mary Barra stated exactly that, “if only the key is used in the lock, her engineers found the car would be safe to operate”.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    It seems many are dismissive of these victims plight (they were incompetent, it was partly their fault etc) Bull$h1t! If it was one of your own that died that way, you would not say the same thing. I agree, all of us have been spoiled by modern advances in auto tech and often go on auto-pilot but to downplay losing all power when on the highway or at an intersection with a “they should’ve been able to handle it” is BS. This is a real problem and GM knew it. Hindsight is always 20/20 until it’s your ass on the line.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      @halftruth-My heart is with you, and the car should always function as intended.

      You are certainly wrong with the assertion that “GM knew it”. An engineer buying off on an easy turning ignition switch discrepancy from desired spec, and still being willing to have his children drive the car is pretty good evidence of this.

  • avatar
    zenith

    Did the guy who blubbered about his dead daughter all over national TV ever ride with his daughter to a large, abandoned parking lot and then reach over and shut off the ignition as she drove?
    If daughter dearest was never exposed to what happens when power steering and brakes suddenly go out at speed, she no doubt panicked–just like the Ford Explorer drivers who got into fatal wrecks panicked when their tires blew out.
    I have had both blowouts on the freeway while driving high-profile vehicles and I’ve had bad ignition switches cut out on me. I’m still alive to speak of such things. because I was better trained than many other drivers. My cop Dad DID just reach out and shut off my car as I drove thru a parking lot. I did experience no power steering or brakes. I momentarily freaked, then slapped the shifter into neutral and restarted the car. When he did to me again–this time in traffic–I was prepared.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Blubbered? Are you serious? The man lost a child. No matter what the reason. Have some compassion for cripe sake. This is TTAC not AB.


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