GM Discloses More Fatalities, Faces Questions Amid Email Revelation
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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