The evidence continues to mount that General Motors has been less than transparent, if not outright culpable, regarding its ignition switch recall fiasco. As the death toll mounts (from the original 13 casualties reported by GM to the just revised 32 deaths) for victims involved in crashes of GM vehicles with defective ignition switches, new evidence has emerged that GM actually ordered replacement parts for the defective switches a full two months before they even reported a problem.
A Wall Street Journal article published on Sunday unveiled the damning evidence that GM placed an order for half a million replacement parts for defective ignition switches in mid-December of 2013. GM’s timeline of events points to February of 2014 as the time when they decided on recalling the vehicles. Mary Barra has stated that she was not aware of the issue until around that time, when GM notified the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and issued a recall. The additional two months that motorists’ lives were put at risk was commented on in the WSJ piece as follows:
General Motors Co. ordered a half-million replacement ignition switches to fix Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars almost two months before it alerted federal safety regulators to the problem, according to emails viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The parts order, not publicly disclosed by GM, and its timing are sure to give fodder to lawyers suing GM and looking to poke holes in a timetable the auto maker gave for its recall of 2.5 million vehicles. The recall concerns a switch issue that is now linked to 30 deaths and has led to heavy criticism of the auto giant’s culture and the launch of a Justice Department investigation.
The email exchanges took place in mid-December 2013 between a GM contract worker and the auto maker’s ignition-switch supplier, Delphi Automotive PLC. The emails indicate GM placed a Dec. 18 “urgent” order for 500,000 replacement switches one day after a meeting of senior executives. GM and an outside report it commissioned have said the executives discussed the Cobalt at the Dec. 17 meeting but didn’t decide on a recall.
The WSJ also notes that GM’s much-hyped internal investigation by cronies headed by attorney Anton Valukas failed to mention the very important information that the company had ordered parts in December for a problem that they said they weren’t sure about until two months later. The credibility of GM CEO Mary Barra comes into question as well, considering that the parts order came “one day after a meeting of senior executives.”
I have long suspected that Ms. Barra was aware of the deadly defect in GM vehicles prior to when she said she was; or at the least should have been. Ms. Barra was head of GM product development and the main individual in charge of quality control during the time that the company was being sued over deaths from accidents involving defective ignition switches. In fact, as I reported on in March of this year, high level meetings were held at GM in July of 2011 to address the issues; meetings Ms. Barra should have been aware of.
The fallout and tragedies resulting from GM’s mishaps continue a full nine months after the company recalled its defective models. Reports recently surfaced revealing that GM has repaired only about half of the recalled vehicles. I have been contacted by owners of recalled vehicles who tell of nightmare stories of runarounds as they waited for GM to supply parts to dealerships. Another death has resulted from GM’s failure to get the repairs done as noted by one report which stated:
One of the unrepaired vehicles was a red 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt that crashed in Yonkers the night of Oct. 9, killing its 25-year-old driver, Brittany Alfarone. Her mother, Dierdre Betancourt, said she had tried to fix the car twice, but two dealers turned her away.
GM has claimed billions of dollars in expenses for repairs that it has not even completed. While owners of defective GM vehicles frustratingly wait for parts for their vehicles while they continue to drive cars with deadly defects, GM tries to capitalize on the tragedy by blaming poor earnings results on recall expenses while bragging about the recalls driving showroom traffic.
GM continues to look more and more guilty regarding a cover-up of known safety issues. The fact that Treasury sold its shares of GM in December of 2013 at a time when a devastating recall scandal was brewing must also come into question. Considering the involvement of the Obama Administration in GM, did politics contribute to the delay in reporting the deadly ignition switch defect?
There are many questions that should not be allowed to go unanswered regarding the GM recall scandal that resulted in at least 32 people losing their lives. Why did GM wait two months after ordering replacement parts to notify the public of the deadly safety defect? Did GM want to wait until after its earnings announcement date of February 6? Did Mary Barra know of the issues prior to the date she said was notified? If not, why wouldn’t she have been aware, considering her high-level status and the importance of a safety defect that had already resulted in lawsuits?
Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for exposing the seeming corruption at GM. The NY Times has done some great investigative work on the GM recall scandal, as well. It is now time for President Obama’s Justice Department to get tough with GM and get some answers. People have died and criminal charges should be brought against those whose greed contributed to the deaths. The crony relationship of our government with GM should not prevent justice for the 32 individuals who died as a result of a greedy corporation that put profits ahead of safety.
Mark Modica is an NLPC Associate Fellow.