By on July 21, 2015

General Motors CEO Mary Barra Testifies Before Senate Committee About GM's Recalls

A U.S. Senate committee has shot down a number of auto safety measures including one that would hold executives criminally accountable for not disclosing known automotive defects, reports the New York Times.

“Hiding these deadly defects with near impunity is what the industry has succeeded in doing,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., according to the story. He introduced many of the failed provisions.

Another proposal that would have made it illegal for used-car dealers to sell vehicles with outstanding recalls was rejected by the committee.

There were a few wins for Democrats backing stiffer penalties, however, as a proposal to raise the maximum civil penalty against automakers from $35 million to $70 million gained approval, as did a measure to ban rental car companies from renting vehicles with open recalls.

Two other proposals were withdrawn before they could be rejected. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said he would likely propose them later as amendments directly on the Senate floor.

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27 Comments on “Execs Refusing To Disclose Defects Won’t Go to Jail Anytime Soon...”

  • avatar

    Do (m)any white collar criminals ever do the time?

    Starting with the government creeps…you just stall,deny, rinse repeat.
    Then the 24/7 news cycle eventually drowns out your scandal and it all gets replaced with new bad news.

    standard op

    • 0 avatar

      Do White collar criminals ever do time?

      Sure…but only the scapegoats – while the WHALES get off.

      I do agree that rental car companies and used car dealers shouldn’t be allowed to sell cars with dangerous recalls outstanding, but the question becomes:

      #1 Who’s gonna pay for the fixes?

      #2 Who’s gonna pay or take the time to get these cars inspected at the dealer??? Some service centers wre SWAMPED at any given point of the week.

      #3 How would you even know a recall is warranted immediately? Congress wants to have a “recall warning light”?

      Well that’s gonna take a cellular connection that’s always on and some kind of screen to notify the driver what’s wrong.

      mo money, mo money, mo money!!!

      • 0 avatar

        I think the recall warning light is ridiculous, although automakers could leverage their respective telematics systems to notify users of recalls, reducing the chances that someone doesn’t get his/her recall notice via snail mail.

        But as far as rental agencies knowing which recalls are potentially life-threatening or compromise safety? I would maybe put the onus on the automaker to disclose that. Obviously a recall involving a piece of exterior trim that likes to come loose is not going to be nearly as dangerous as a recall involving spontaneous airbag deployment, sudden stalling or a faulty seatbelt latch.

        As for the logistics of when and how these vehicles are going to get fixed? I don’t know…especially with the million-unit recall campaigns that have become common in the industry

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        1 Who’s gonna pay: it’s a recall, so the automakers, of course. The downtime will impact rental agencies, but that’s a cost of doing business. Over time they will learn to account for this.

        2 service centers are SWAMPED: that just means that brands that provide better service will get more business. How is that wrong?

        3 How would you even know a recall is warranted: that’s the fleet manager’s job. You buy 1,000 Corollas, you should be able to track recall notices. If not, maybe you should do something else for a living.

  • avatar

    Mario Puzo (who authored The Godfather) wrote that a lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a man with a gun.

  • avatar

    Barra is an incompetent figurehead. many talented folks bolted when she was promoted, they saw the writing on the wall. General Motors is a failed organization with an upper echelon of corrupt individuals who have no clue.

    • 0 avatar

      Mary, Mary…Why she buggin…

      Mary hands Johan de Shysten 12 billion USD (1/3 of GM’s total platform development funds) just to “fix” Cadillac through 2020, to build vehicles desired circa-1995 but that no one wants today, while Lincoln outperforms Cadillac (that represents a mere 1 out of 20 of GM’s total sales) with a measly 1 billion USD allotment shuckin’ dressed up Fords (with a better product mix).

      GM Total Incompetence 5 Decades Running.

  • avatar

    And once again business gets off scot-free and sticks it to the plebs.

    So industry executives, rental car companies and used-car salesman have been told they can eff up with impunity. No accountability. No jail, no responsibility. Free to act in a criminal way by withholding safety information.

    Next Senate committee hearing: How can government better assist banks.

    World’s going to hell in a handbasket and the One-Percenters continue to feed off the majority in a designated crime-free zone.

    • 0 avatar

      “And once again business gets off scot-free and sticks it to the plebs.”

      Wouldn’t those be the plebs whose thick heads you’re constantly railing against, your latest wound being their mush-brained succumbing to claims for HSS?

      Run ’em through!

    • 0 avatar

      As long as said one-percenters are being handily outbred 4-1 by dudes in Hilux’ properly kitted out with beltguns, all is not lost. Like late stage Rome, it’s just a temporary phase.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Fines and settlements are just license fees, petty nuisances, costs of doing business. Makes you wonder how crooked a CEO to be to do time.

  • avatar

    I’m no GM fanboy, but they have my sympathies given the government’s definition of ‘defect’ will be unknowable or change with political winds. The Toyota so-called ‘acceleration’ debacle should give everyone pause in a “Three Felonies a Day” world.

    Why not have all sellers disclose all defects and let the buyer decide if such defects are worth the price? In such a world, I might purchase a car with a non-working airbag. But The Statists have made such consensual deals illegal. We serfs need to be protected by Them.

    • 0 avatar

      I do agree that a strong definition needs to be in place because some defects just mean your iphone won’t sync, while others mean your family will die a horrible death.

      Still, it’s a sad fact that somebody out there knew that “under certain circumstances” Takata airbags would grenade, and someone knew that GM ignition switches would fail, and so forth, and nothing was done until lives were lost.

    • 0 avatar

      There will never be a clear cut definition of what is, and is not, a “defect.” Every car can be made safer if cost is no object whatsoever,

      This whole thing is just another chapter in the progressive charade. One percenter politicians pretending to be on some sort of “opposite side” of equally one-percenter execs. While the masses get to flaunt their level of indoctrination by standing around “taking sides” and believing either of the two groups care even the slightest about anything other than their own aggrandizement.

      Humanity pretty much got it’s start in the general vicinity of modern day Somalia. Then spread outward from there. Some hundreds of thousands of years later, about 30 years ago, the Somalis finally figured out the correct way for humans to deal with all and any form of government. In due time, that insight will spread outwards as well. In the meantime, look around and thank the indoctrinated yahoos you’re surrounded by, for the idiocy you’re stuck having to put up with.

  • avatar

    Money trumps consumer safety? Color me shocked!!

  • avatar

    Interesting how 99.9% of this happened under a male’s watch, yet a female gets the cover photo.

    • 0 avatar

      She’s the CEO of GM, whose ignition mishaps are the source of all of this drama.

      • 0 avatar

        She was CEO as of January 2014.

        GM was accused of a cover up in February of 2014, going back to 2004, Wagoner was CEO then and there were two others after him. Heck the Cobalt was out of production by four years (give or take a few months) when Mary became CEO.

        I think the specific use of her picture is unfair. Not a defense of GM, but a defense of Barra.

        • 0 avatar

          She didn’t work in the mail room prior to becoming CEO.

          If there was a law that permitted criminal prosecutions, then you can bet that she would be in the crosshairs. Whether or not she was guilty would be another matter.

  • avatar
    El Hombre

    Someone in GM management was kind of aware they might have a problem with the ignition key assembly; but it isn’t going to be the CEO. Media gets all excited over 13 deaths in 10 years??? There were probably 50,000 people killed in GM cars involved in accidents in those 10 years. So how do you tease out the 13? And do something about it?

    It’s not something the CEO is going to handle; there’s lots of lower level peeps to do that. The initial fix was to get the people with the 3 pound keychain to remove the ignition key and use only that; then there was a plastic tab to hold the key cylinder in a clockwise direction. But when they’re drunk, speeding, and no seat belt, no recall for stupid….

    From what I’ve read about some of the 13; drunk, speeding and no seat belt. Darwin Award winners….

    • 0 avatar

      It has been way more than 13 deaths in 10 years, the GM compensation fund is proof of that.

      But the lack of media coverage and for that matter TTAC coverage on the over 40 million vehicles recalled to date with Takata airbags, that when tested have a 1% failure rate in the real world (e.g. they turn into Claymore mines not life saving devices) is pretty disingenuous. One-percent of 40,000,000 is 400,000 – that is a lot of potential Claymore mines out there.

      TTAC has provided no coverage to the fact that the NHTSA is now opening up an investigation into ARC Automotive airbags, that also apparently have turned into Claymore mines installed in Chrysler, Kia, and wait for it…yes…Honda vehicles.

      But hey, General Motors isn’t in that game – minus the Toyota shared Vibe that got Takata airbags and a couple of low selling badge engineered vehicles.

      Not directed at TTAC directly, but the free pass that Takata and Honda is getting is pretty shocking when you look at the numbers we know, and the safe conclusion that given the nature of a severe car accident, the number of deaths covered up by other injuries – let alone the hundreds of know shrapnel injuries.

      Lets remember Takata was fined day-to-day for non-compliance with the NHTSA and the auto makers have all but refused to do full on national recalls, saying only cars in the south are impacted.

      Gee that’s great – so what about the Takata equipped rental car that lived in Orlando, got sold at auction in Georgia, and ended up on a dealer lot in Jersey? Too bad for them I guess?

      Oh wait, that isn’t drunk drivers speeding in the rain at night with four pounds of goods hanging off their ignition switch and not wearing a seat belt.

      Now that is a far more sexier story to read.

      • 0 avatar

        What’s driving the economics and corruption with this airbag issue is that the cars MUST have an airbag. There’s a very fine line between an properly functioning airbag and a deadly steering wheel bomb.

        Such uncertainty has an inexpensive, elegant solution. Remove the airbag – and disclose the car is airbag-free going forward. Of course, that is Verboten by The Regulators.

        The Regulator’s Solution: Remove the possible airbag/bomb and swap with a replacement that, after an expen$ive, certified test and installation, is 100 percent guaranteed to Not-Be-An-Airbag-Bomb. Just ignore that this replacement is sold by the same people made and installed the airbag/bomb? in the first place.

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t Rick Wagoner be the right picture to show if we’re going to show a GM face on the “getting away with murder” story of the day.

    Rick was CEO from 2003 to 2009 and if there is any smoking gun on, “what did they know,” wouldn’t he be the right person to point the finger at given what we know about GM ignition switches in Cobalts et al.

    The Cobalt had been out of production for years when Mary took the ship. Or what about Ed Whiteacre? Or what about Daniel Akerson?

    Barra didn’t become CEO until January of 2014 – one month later GM was accused of knowing about the ignition switch problem back in 2004, when Wagoner was CEO.

    None of this is in defense of GM – but I do feel that the picture of Barra implies her direct malfeasance quite unfairly – given the well established timeline and the players involved.

  • avatar

    Big Biz getting a pass/cover by the govt./politicians – what else is new?

    In a country where instead of addressing the horrible treatment/conditions at factory (livestock) farms – politicians pass legislation making it illegal to take undercover video – hardly surprising.

    Same goes where state politicians have banned cities/towns/local governments from passing legislation regulating or banning fracking.

    Follow the $$.

  • avatar
    El Hombre

    It’s up to 124 deaths and 269 injuries in the compensation fund. But when it started, it was 13 deaths. Which in the overall scheme of things is a drop in the bucket. Three times that on a holiday weekend…the current total, not the initial.

    I ride a motorcycle on the street, so I’m not really obsessed about getting snuffed out there; things happen.

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