The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is opening an investigation into General Motors' response to an ignition-switch defect that has been linked to 13 deaths, prompting a recall of 1.6 million vehicles. As I have previously reported, the ignition-switch problem has been known for years. What took NHTSA so long?
NHTSA is an executive branch agency, part of the Transportation Department. According to its website, NHTSA "is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety. It works daily [emphasis added] to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial."
New evidence is surfacing that General Motors has known for years about the deadly defects in its vehicles (as I suggested here last week) that are just now being recalled. The defects have led to the deaths of at least six people and are the basis of an ongoing lawsuit against GM.
The deadly recall delay by GM has garnered the attention of Mainstream Media as usually GM-friendly sources like USA Today, The New York Times, CNN Money and even CBS Evening News have rightfully decided that the accusations of deplorable behavior by GM deserve to be shared with the public. It is time for GM to explain its handling of the delayed recall that only came after a lawsuit settlement with one of the victims.
General Motors announced disappointing earnings results today and issued a warning that first quarter results will underwhelm as well. The reasons behind the earnings' miss are surely going to be explained away by pundits and proponents of the company still known as Government Motors to many. Sorting through the smoke and mirrors can lead to some important and simple explanations as to what is going on at GM.
The Obama Administration may have sold the last of the taxpayers' shares in General Motors, but it appears that politics will continue to play a powerful role in the management of the company. New GM CEO Mary Barra did not seem too concerned about appearances when she attended the State of the Union as Obama's guest. Her predecessor Dan Akerson in previous months had gone to great lengths to distance GM from the federal government.
General Motors is now approaching its fifth year of existence since emerging as a new entity as a result of the 2009 auto bailouts which saw taxpayers fund a bankruptcy process to the tune of $50 billion. Much has been debated about the "success" of GM since the controversial government-orchestrated restructuring. While GM management recently announced a dividend in an attempt to ensure investors of financial stability, a more telling indicator of the likelihood of future profitability may be found through an analysis of how competitive the company's vehicles are.
The internet was ablaze Tuesday evening with stories presenting a perceived positive move by General Motors' outgoing government-appointed management. All hail! "General Motors to pay first dividend since 2008," trumpeted the headlines. GM shares immediately spiked up in after-hours trading with shares rising about $1.60 or 4% on the news. Unfortunately for those duped by the proclamation, GM followed the story hours later with a profit warning. For the time being, the bad news outweighed the good with GM shares reversing course and ending the day Wednesday with a loss of over one and a half percent on a day that the market rallied.
General Motors seems to be really good at winning awards for its vehicles. The Chevy Silverado just took home the North American Truck of the Year Award at the Detroit Auto Show. The truck also was just embarrassingly recalled due to a potential fire hazard. Unfortunately for GM, the bad news outweighs the good as awards do not always result in increased sales. Just look at the award-winning Chevy Volt as an example.