GM Must Answer for Blaming Accident Victims

crashed carGeneral Motors still has many questions to answer regarding the recall scandal that saw at least 13 lives lost in accidents involving vehicles with deadly ignition switch defects. GM waited over 10 years to recall the defective vehicles. The company now needs to answer for a seeming lack of compassion for the victims. GM initially blamed drivers of defective vehicles involved in fatal crashes by falsely implying that all of the accidents occurred while driving off-road.  

In February of this year, when news of the GM ignition switch recall surfaced, the claim from GM was that all of the crashes caused by the defective switches “occurred off-road and at high speeds.” Here’s the full explanation as reported by the NY Times:

General Motors is recalling about 619,000 small cars in the United States because either a heavy key ring or a “jarring event” such as running off the road could cause the ignition to shut off and possibly prevent the air bags from deploying in a crash, the automaker said in a report posted today on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. The vehicles affected by the recall are the 2007 Pontiac G5 and the 2005-7 Chevrolet Cobalt.

In addition to the vehicles being recalled in the United States, another 153,000 in Canada and 6,100 in Mexico are being recalled.

In a separate news release, G.M. said it knew of six deaths in five crashes in which the front air bags did not deploy.

“All of these crashes occurred off-road and at high speeds, where the probability of serious or fatal injuries was high regardless of air bag deployment. In addition, failure to wear seat belts and alcohol use were factors in some of these cases,” the statement said.

Alcohol was involved in two of the five crashes, resulting in three of the deaths, Alan Adler, a spokesman for G.M., said in a telephone interview. The statement said G.M. was also aware of 17 other crashes “involving some type of frontal impact and nonfatal injuries where the air bags did not deploy.”

Mr. Adler said it was possible that hitting a deep pothole could turn off the ignition, but that G.M. had received no such reports. A figure for the weight of key rings causing the problems was not available.

GM CEO, Mary Barra, tries to portray today’s GM as having a “customer culture.” The fact that today’s GM has been around for almost five years and, during that time, failed to address safety issues they clearly knew about is enough to bring into question New GM’s regard for its customers. The above statements further raise concerns that the underbelly of GM may be infested with a culture of deceit which influences the company’s responses to criticisms.

Let’s be clear; potholes, heavy key rings, driving off-road at high speeds and alcohol are not the culprits for 13 people losing their lives. The deaths in the accidents occurred primarily because GM failed to recall dangerously defective vehicles. The statement implying that all of the accidents were caused by driving off-roads at high speeds is deceitful. This is not the first time that today’s GM has gone on the offensive against victims and their families who suffered as a result of GM’s failure to recall defective vehicles.

The NY Times also reported that today’s GM responded cruelly to families of victims who sought justice, even allegedly going as far as making threats according to one of the family’s attorneys who was quoted in the article as follows:

“They sent us a letter in September (2013) telling us to drop our case or else they’d come after us,” said William Jordan, the family’s lawyer. “They were going to come after me for sanctions, to pay their attorneys’ fees.”

The attorneys that defended GM in lawsuits are now some of the same people that GM has put in charge of their internal investigation.

GM’s actions regarding their recall scandal have been deplorable. The company’s attempt to blame victims and old GM for its own failings should not go unquestioned or unpunished. Criminal charges should be sought and the individuals at GM who directed spokespeople to make deceptive claims about crashes occurring off-road should be exposed. Above all, GM must take accountability and put an end to what appears to be a culture of deceit.

Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.