On Thursday, July 17, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be back as a witness on Capitol Hill, this time before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has been an outspoken critic of GM's response to the deadly ignition switch defect, chairs the Subcommittee. Indeed, the hearing is titled, "Examining Accountability and Corporate Culture in Wake of the GM Recalls." Another subcommittee member, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), has been even more outspoken. Both deserve credit for seeking to make GM accountable, especially since some members on both House and Senate committees have pulled their punches on Barra and GM.
Is General Motors trying to make lemonade out of lemons? In the case of the company's recent string of lemon recalls, there seems to be a strategy to increase showroom traffic by issuing recalls for only those vehicles which do not require high costs to repair. GM CEO, Mary Barra, gave a hint at this strategy during last quarter's earnings conference call.
On May 13, we asked GM to recall Chevy Silverados and other pickups and SUVs with a brake line corrosion problem. GM responded by claiming that it was a "maintenance issue" and therefore not a reason to order a recall.
General Motors continues to deny that there is a problem with rusting brake lines on its vehicles, as noted here yesterday. GM's new Vice President of Global Safety, Jeffrey Boyer, claims that brake line rust "is a maintenance issue that affects the entire automotive industry." However, a search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) website shows that GM vehicles have about ten times the complaints for brake lines than Ford, Toyota and Honda combined!
General Motors has finally responded to our May 13 request that it recall 6 million Chevy Silverados and other light trucks and SUVs. In a letter from Jeffrey Boyer, Vice President for Global Safety, GM is sticking to its longstanding claim that a brake line corrosion problem results from "wear and tear." From Boyer's letter:
Brake line wear on vehicles is a maintenance issue that affects the entire automotive industry. As with every vehicle part, our safety personnel regularly investigate brake line complaints for possible defects.
This statement is directly refuted by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. The kind of corrosion affecting GM vehicles does not plague the rest of the industry. In the only other situation with any similarity, Subaru last year undertook a recall.
Well, it looks like New GM is not much different than Old GM when it comes to addressing serious safety issues on its vehicles. The Associated Press reports that General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, claims that GM has not turned up any other major safety issues. I guess Ms. Barra feels that two tons of steel traveling at high speeds with brake lines that can burst at any moment is nothing to be concerned about. The continued denial by GM that there is no safety issue with their trucks that are prone to brake line corrosion proves that the company has a long way to go before they change a culture that puts profits ahead of motorists' safety.
The United Auto Workers may have declined in numbers, but its taste for confrontation appears as strong as ever. And its new leader, Dennis Williams, isn't about to let anyone forget. Last Wednesday, June 4, Williams, the UAW secretary-treasurer these last four years, overwhelmingly was elected president at the union convention in Detroit. Inaugurated the following day, Williams, now 61, replaces one-term President Bob King, who at age 67 retired in the face of the union's mandatory age limit. Williams' main priority is ending the two-tier wage system to which the union agreed in 2007 as part of a deal to keep General Motors, Ford and Chrysler afloat. He'll get to test his mettle in contract negotiations next year. The union shouldn't lack for funds in this or any other endeavor; delegates approved a 25 percent dues hike.
The long-awaited General Motors recall report, which was compiled by attorneys with longstanding and lucrative ties to the company, has been released with few surprises. GM-hired attorneys claim that no high-level executives at the company were responsible for the deadly ignition switch recall delay that cost at least 13 people their lives. The report does nothing to vindicate GM. The company's management must be investigated by the Justice Department.