By on November 12, 2014

General Motors headquarters in Detroit, Michigan

General Motors disclosed more deaths linked to the February 2014 ignition switch recall in its quarterly report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but more headaches await the automaker as the spotlight focuses on CEO Mary Barra’s actual role in the recall in the first place.

According to Automotive News, GM reported 47 deaths and 614 injuries linked to the ignition switch at the center of the recall. The breakdown this quarter is as follows:

  • Chevrolet Cobalt: 302 injuries, 26 deaths
  • Chevrolet HHR: 122 injuries, five deaths
  • Saturn Ion: 56 injuries, seven deaths

The overall total linked to the ignition issue thus far comes to 975 crashes, 1,101 injuries and 69 deaths, most occurring within the past several years.

As for the recall, the recently revealed email exchange between GM and supplier Delphi in December 2013 over a parts order of 500,000 switches — two months prior to the recall action — further showed the communication breakdown that has kept the automaker and those affected by its actions in the spotlight for most of this year. The emails weren’t a part of the Valukas report, and would have remained unknown to all but the attorneys fighting the automaker in class-action cases if a judge ruled in favor of keeping the documents confidential.

Regarding where Barra was, she and other senior GM brass all maintain that they didn’t know about the seriousness at-hand until the end of January. Barra had been the company’s executive vice president of product development, purchasing and supply chain prior to becoming CEO January 15. Further, the exchange was between mid-level employees — specifically a contract employee named Sarah Missentzis — and the supplier, suggesting that Barra still wasn’t told about the problem due to where she was in the chain of command.

That said, the automaker still had a responsibility to alert consumers to, at minimum, unload their keyrings to prevent the slipping issues affecting the switches, according to attorney Robert Hilliard, the attorney who fought to have the emails go public:

Part of the recall was to tell customers to take weight off the key chain. Why delay telling customers that?

For its part, GM said the emails were “further confirmation” that its reporting system “needed reform,” an issue that the automaker has gone to great pains to correct, per representative Alan Adler.

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25 Comments on “GM Discloses More Fatalities, Faces Questions Amid Email Revelation...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

    How does your lying grow?

    With silver Chevys, and Saturn Ions,

    And pretty jail cells all in a row.”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Martha Stuart served time, yet she killed no one. Or maimed, injured or even bruised.

    The delay saved GM millions on loaner/rentals.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    The more that keeps coming out, the more criminal GM is revealed as.

    I grew up in a neighborhood with 75% GM white collar workers, switched to Japanese vehicles in college in the late 90s, and never looked back.

    I’ve watched GM die once due to total incompetence & complete arrogance & disastrous bureaucracy (a fatal mix), but now we can add criminal acts to the mix.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      +1 I grew up the same, my father was a GM exec, according to him this is just the tip of the iceberg. My last new GM car was purchased in 1986, I’ve never been back

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I had a sinking feeling that GM was doomed when the son of my next door neighbor GM Exec, seeing my 1994 Honda EX, came over to check out my car, and tell me how the constant problems I had with my past stream of GM pieces of crap were covered under warranty, and that I just needed to sell or trade in the vehicles before the warranty expired.

        He also commented that I should just “crank the stereo” when I complained of dreadful interior quality, suspension design and loud rattles/suspension noises over rough pavement with my USA Chevrolet.

        Such was the mindset of a GM Exec spawn mid 90s.

        • 0 avatar
          elimgarak

          “crank the stereo” was something I was just told last week when I test drove an Evo and there was a buzzing rattle coming from behind the radio/head unit.

          Mind you – I didn’t care too much because mechanically the car had been babied and it was low miles.

          That same response would be unacceptable in almost any other class of car.

  • avatar
    50merc

    This latest revelation is pretty damning. The next question is how high in the hierarchy must there be approval to urgently buy a half-million replacement switches? Even at GM, we’re not talking petty cash, let alone the implications for customer satisfaction and brand reputation. The “rogue individual engineer” story is losing credibility.

    By the way, does the variance in crash/injury/fatality ratios between Cobalt, HHR and Ion look significantly significant?

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Martha Stewart committed insider trading, which is deliberate fraud– “I make money at some one elses expense”. Even if no one died, it is a crime. The sort of crime that, if prosecuted more, might make the world a better place.

    At GM, I highly doubt a bunch of evil engineers huddled around and said, “let’s put out these cars with keys that fail” or “let’s not do anything!”

    But even if I thought these evil greedy corporate American types did do just that, it would be hard to prove criminal intent for them, or the Pinto, or even Toyota and Takata, or even the maligned Corvair, IMO.

    Cars are complicated. It’s complicated and tragic. However, in the overall scheme of things, are we better off with mass, personal, mobile mobility?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      You’re simply not understanding what GM employees, engineers and attorneys have already admitted, when they admitted those things and when they had actual knowledge of the subject defect, that had already caused/contributed to collisions, injuries & fatalities, and how this entire thing has factually played out – obviously.

      And then you launch into some larger philosophical musing and pure conjecture, in an abstract way, about the soul of corporations.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You need to Google “contributory negligence” and understand how it applies here.

        GM did not see much of a problem here because the crashes were the fault of the drivers. That was a bad approach, but it is what happens when the process is driven by attorneys instead of crisis managers.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      All that the victims needed to know was not to put many or any other keys on the key ring. Simple. And if it stalls, simply restart while on the roll.

      GM knew for a decade there was a huge problem with the switches, but without a recall, there’s no way to effectively and immediately communicate this with owners/drivers with defective/subpar ignition switches. It’s ‘recall’ or nothing. They went the ‘nothing’ route. That’s when it became a crime.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “At GM, I highly doubt a bunch of evil engineers huddled around and said, “let’s put out these cars with keys that fail” or “let’s not do anything!” ”

      No, but once then found out they had a defective switch re-engineered the part without changing the number to hide the fact that they knew the original part was defective and could possibly hurt or kill someone, went home and were able to sleep at night. All under Monster Mary’s watch

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        GM’s behavior would suggest that the company didn’t think that it had a serious problem. The drivers were at fault for the crashes, and GM didn’t see much reason to take responsibility for deaths that were self-inflicted.

        This was not a smart approach to take, but it does seem to accurately describe how the problem was perceived until recently. That’s a cultural failure, not a conspiracy.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          It doesn’t matter if the drivers were at fault. An airbag is designed to minimize injury in the event of a crash. An airbag does not make a judgement as to culpability, it’s just suppose to function, if it doesn’t, who’s fault is that? Certainly not the driver’s

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Yes, but that isn’t how the lawyers look at it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Let’s hope it’s how a jury looks at it

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            The airbag is secondary. It’s there to supplement the seat belt. I find it really hard to sympathize with someone who is injured simply because they couldn’t be bothered to use the primary safety feature. It’s even harder when their negligence caused the crash in the first place.

            What are the numbers, anyway? From the few individual reports I’ve seen I get the impression that most, if not all, of those killed or seriously injured were not wearing a seat belt. Any pictures I’ve seen show either a passenger compartment that was far less compromised than mine was in my air-bag-free car after I was hit head-on, or a car that had mostly side-impact damage, rendering the frontal airbags irrelevant.

          • 0 avatar
            rpn453

            The airbag is secondary. It’s there to supplement the seat belt. I find it really hard to sympathize with someone who is injured simply because they couldn’t be bothered to use the primary safety feature. It’s even harder when their negligence caused the crash in the first place.

            What are the numbers, anyway? From the few individual reports I’ve seen I get the impression that most, if not all, of those killed or seriously injured were not wearing a seat belt. Any pictures I’ve seen show either a passenger compartment that was far less compromised than mine was in my airbag-free car after I was hit head-on, or a car that had mostly s*de-impact damage, rendering the frontal airbags irrelevant.

            GM deserves some blame for these deaths and injuries, but the drivers deserve most of it.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            You make some valid points, but they don’t excuse the lying and the cover-up, which has become the issue here

  • avatar

    I hope good GM cars like the Corvette,ATS, and Malibu are not too little too late.

    Still, nothing compares to the Ford Pinto debacle. Remember the phrase let them burn.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait, this story is still being covered by the media…I thought that wasn’t the case. It’s all about Takata airbags and shrapnel and distracting the public from GM and…wait a minute…

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’d take a poorly designed GM ignition switch over a shrapnel-spraying Takata airbag any day. The airbag can actively harm me, while the GM ignition switch only allows me to harm myself.

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