By on March 19, 2014

File photo of General Motors logo outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit

General Motors CEO Mary Barra has appointed executive Jeff Boyer to the newly created position of Vice President, Global Vehicle Safety. Meanwhile, Barra and her company’s use of service bulletins in lieu of recalls will both go under the microscope, with the new CEO likely to testify before Congress next month.

Automotive News and Just-Auto report Boyer will provide vehicle safety updates on a frequent and regular schedule to GM’s senior management, board of directors and Barra:

This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability. If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them.

Boyer, Barra and a number of GM execs are likely to testify before Congress sometime next month over the decade-delayed recall of 1.76 million vehicles affected globally by a flawed ignition switch that could deactivate engine power and airbags if the key is weighed down by unessential items, with her statements to highlight GM’s focus on the consumer in light of the recall going forward.

Meanwhile, the automaker’s use of service bulletins in lieu of potentially costly recalls — such as the aforementioned ignition recall — may cost GM more than the $35 million in fines the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration could levy on the automaker in terms of reputation, though they may not be alone in sharing the blame.

In 2005 and 2006, two bulletins related to the switch were sent to dealerships with instructions for dealers to ask drivers to remove unessential items from their key rings. Bulletins in general are issued for non-safety issues affecting a vehicle, and are made know only to service shops and the NTHSA, though a 2012 law entitled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century — requiring the NTHSA to create a searchable public database by 2013 — would have solved the problem had the agency fulfilled the mandate.

According to Center for Auto Safety executive director Clarence Ditlow, bulletins such as the two issued by GM over the switch result in only 10 percent or fewer affected vehicles undergoing necessary repairs, while recalls as administered by the NTHSA through the Motor Vehicle Safety Act pull in 70 percent.

Ditlow also says automakers — looking out for financial incentives — generally seek out other fixes short of an official recall, placing the NTHSA in the position of negotiator when a recall is needed, leading to the situation where the agency itself is under the microscope as Congress probes into why the NTHSA didn’t push hard enough for a recall as early as 2007, when two deaths in Wisconsin related to the switch were brought up before GM executives.

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30 Comments on “GM Hires New Safety Czar As Barra, Service Bulletins Go Under The Microscope...”

  • avatar

    Let’s file the term “____ czar” in the “Don’t Use / Played Out” file.

  • avatar

    From what I see so far, Mary B. is doing all the right things. She is in full “damage control” mode.

    She cannot change the past. She can only work on the future.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      “Before hand-picked reporters, GM CEO apologizes for vehicle flaw linked to 12 deaths” – WXYZ Detroit news.

      Yup, that’s “full” damage control. Full of…

      • 0 avatar

        Well then, what should she have said ,or done?

        • 0 avatar
          Johnny Canada

          I would suggest ditching the hand-picked reporters and the teleprompter. It’s starting to feel like the same old GM to me. Mary Barra needs to make some bold moves right now.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, much better to go out there completely unscripted with every personal injury lawyer in the nation wiping off the Toyota blood, and resharpening them.

            Then she could say something wrong and cause billions of dollars in lawsuits.

            The old GM wouldn’t have even held a press conference.

            Always amazing to me when any company follows good business practices in the modern world it gets condemned.

            Much better to just go out there and say anything to any question and get a bunch of wild speculation going.

            People’s Exhibit A: The Malaysian’s government utter mis-handling of one missing 777

            Hey, at least they aren’t using a teleprompter and answer the questions of every lunatic reporter on the planet who has a blog…

          • 0 avatar

            Hey btw, I just wanted to note my comment below and the one here again:


            so there’s a definitive record it was sufficiently addressed the inevitable next time a willful ignorance of the Toyota UA issue is displayed.

    • 0 avatar

      Is it just me, or does it appear to anybody else that this new position has aged Ms. Barra by about five years already? Maybe that perception is due to older photographs of her having been used when the initial announcement was made. The same thing happens to just about every one of our presidents (although Reagan’s appearance probably changed the least while in office).

      I think she’s doing all that she can at this point. The unannounced design change to the detent plunger and spring a few years back is problematic, however.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, whatever, this woman is nothing more than a despicable liar. Typical GM upper management. You honestly expect me to believe that a 35 year GM lifer, a woman that was so high up the executive ranks that she was in consideration for the job as CEO and eventually got the job somehow did not know about all this stuff until January? You can’t really be that naive, can you?

      I have seen enough from the “new” GM to know that nothing has changed and they are still the “old” GM. They will eventually tank again and this time I would kindly like the government to leave my money out of their pockets and let them sink or swim on their own.

  • avatar

    Toyota agrees to pay $1.2 billion to the DOJ and accepts deferred prosecution for three years to reach a dismissal.,0,7794824.story#axzz2wQxrSNLb

    The silence on this from TTAC is – well apparently nothing has changed at TTAC.

    Oh, and for those who want to change the story. Here is the official press release from the Toyota recall from Toyota itself… 2 1

    But hey – I guess this historic criminal settlement and record fine isn’t “news” and takes away from the GM recall drum beat.

    Still waiting for the report of possible gas tank fires on the Odyssey. Could use this as a headline…

    900K Honda Minivans at Risk of BBQ Soccer Moms and Their Offspring In Big Balls of Gasoline Fueled Fire

    When Honda complains to you about the use of “Fire,” in the headline, you can of course make the change.

    The promise of a new TTAC has clearly been broken and the readers are being given two big middle fingers.

    I’m sure any story on the Toyota fine will include editorial on how unfair it is, witch hunt, and Toyota of course did no wrong.

    That’s why they took this criminal settlement for $1.2 billion and that’s why they aside $1.63 billion to reimburse for diminished value and that is why they are probably negotiation billions in a class settlement with the survivors of families killed in Toyota vehicles. Never mind the ongoing SEC investigation on releasing false information to prop up the stock value.

    What a heart warming company and 4 year track record.

    • 0 avatar

      @ APaGttH…..I’m a big supporter, of the Jack, and Derek team. You do however, make a valid point.


    • 0 avatar

      The story on the Toyota settlement is coming. We only have so many hours in the day, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done that doesn’t involve writing or editing.

    • 0 avatar

      I have sent at least two emails to the site pointing out that this was being ignored. This goes down as one of the most successful PR/negotiation campaigns ever. Toyota had no idea that they would lose these lawsuits.

      I originally found this site because of Paul Niedermeyer’s dissection of a Toyota throttle pedal assembly.

      • 0 avatar

        The TTAC dissection of the gas pedals was riveting reading at the time, I agree. However, it soon palled for me, because no conclusions were reached. Everyone flailed around looking for a logical answer, when the real culprit was obviously in the bottom third of the accelerator pedal that Toyota technicians unceremoniously hacked off – in other words, magic.

        Since then some bloke or another claims to have dissected Toyota’s code and declared the programming as utter rubbish, which might well be true, but obviously magic has taken over and the spate of Toyota UA incidents has fallen off.

        So what was the truth?

        The fine is being levied for Toyota’s tardiness in informing NHTSA about the potential problem with floormats. Toyota, in my opinion, is 100% at fault in this. In the Canadian hearings on the matter, Toyota rambled on about their engineers in Japan having to be sure what the problem was. Months went by.

        They did not seem to grasp the fact that the law required them to report the occurrence of a possible flaw in I think, five days. Nothing seemed to penetrate their thick heads that Canada couldn’t care less what some Toyota engineers in Japan felt – their onus under law was to report the problem, not sit on it and discuss it for months.

        I believe you’ll find this is why Toyota has heen fined in the US – they did not report within the statutory time limit. This all may stem from cultural differences, but Toyota lawyers should have made it plain to them that while cultural differences and thoughtful delay may be reasonable, the law requires action immediately, not when Toyota thought it appropriate. So, yup, they’re guilty.

        As for GM, well that is a clusterfk. They broke more rules than Toyota, and weren’t bright enough to ditch their files during bankruptcy, thereby extending their liability from Old GM to new. If they get away with just a $35 million fine that won’t be very just.

        • 0 avatar

          > Since then some bloke or another claims to have dissected Toyota’s code and declared the programming as utter rubbish, which might well be true, but obviously magic has taken over and the spate of Toyota UA incidents has fallen off.

          This “expert” was at best clutching at straws. He was unable to identify any actual flaws or point to any specific systemic problems so I guess innuendo had to do.

          NASA as a rather technically proficient agency also found no such issues. IOW, it’s just a lie.

          > The fine is being levied for Toyota’s tardiness in informing NHTSA about the potential problem with floormats.

          NHTSA’s own reports never indicated this was the case. Their own investigations have never show much of anything. The statistical data also doesn’t show UA reports out of line with other manufacturers, though toyota is somewhat below average:

          Frankly if Toyota just did nothing (same as every other manufacturer re: UA caused by dumbasses), then nothing would’ve happened.

    • 0 avatar

      > What a heart warming company and 4 year track record.

      Toyota just paid them off to avoid the bad PR.

      For all this talking of UI in potentially millions of vehicles, funny how no one’s ever been to replicate it.

      Real trials require *evidence*. OTOH mouthing off doesn’t.

  • avatar

    It’s been posted on autoblog and newser that this guys been at GM since….get this 1974!!!!This guy’s a 40 year GM vet? Oh wonderful… this is classic oldschool GM. It’s a company full of useless LIFERS adding layers of useless LIFER management to justify their LIFER management positions. That should make everyone feel great knowing that management that worked there through the vega, citation, badge engineering cars of the 80s, fighting to death with the NHTSA over every single change in safety and emission regulation for DECADES…that the management who worked through THAT IS NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN GOING TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE’S SAFE!!!

    Does it feel good knowing what we bailed out america? OHH WE SAVED JOBS… yea jobs that are going to be gone in 10 years anyway because the new management is the old management…. old arrogant GM that’s just going to end up going down the same long decline it has since the early 70s….

  • avatar

    In a situation like this, shouldn’t GM’s chief safety engineer be from outside the company? Otherwise it kind of looks like a fox is in the hen house.

  • avatar

    GM should subcontract the NSA to find the problems. NSA could do the necessary metadata analysis with spare compute cycles between eavesdropping on every telecon the NORKs have ever had. Plus the government could use the revenue. And NSA could use the money to keep their Skynet level data center from burning up.

    • 0 avatar

      Plus I hear NASA is really bored, and broke – and if Putin gets pissed off enough, won’t even have a ride to the ISS.

      • 0 avatar

        I assume you are being facetious…

        … but this reminds me of The Onion article where a conspiracy theorist is talking about how NASA was secretly funded by the government the whole time.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Wasn’t Ralph Nader available?

  • avatar
    Ralph ShpoilShport

    Well, this is fun. Talk about perpetuating stereotypes.

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