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.
It is expected that GM's internal investigation will absolve GM CEO Mary Barra of responsibilty for the deadly recall delay that resulted in at least 13 deaths and 31 injuries.
I don't think anybody expects an investigation paid for by GM and conducted by lawyers with longstanding cozy relationships with GM to be anything but a whitewash. This only increases the necessity of NHTSA and Congress getting to the bottom of the delay. They owe it to the victims and the public.
People are tired of hearing leaders at the highest levels of responsibility claim that they were simply not aware.
Here are some questions for GM, NHTSA and Congress:
Today, I sent this letter to David Friedman (in photo), Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
On March 30, 2010 NHTSA's Office of Defect Investigations opened Preliminary Investigation PE10010, into corrosion-related brake line failures in General Motors full-size pickups made between 1999 and 2003. In January 2011, that investigation was upgraded to ODI Engineering Analysis EA11001, which in part appears to determine if corrosion-related brake line failures were a General Motors-specific issue or industry-wide. The "Engineering Analysis" investigation remains open to this day after over three years, making it NHTSA's longest-running open investigation, and the second longest investigation in its history.
GM's initial response to our request yesterday for a recall of vehicles with a brake corrosion problem is completely unacceptable. It was contained in a Detroit News article about our call for the carmaker to recall 6 million pickups and SUVs that are the subject of an open investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
GM spokesman Alan Adler, in photo, claimed that the brake corrosion problem is industry-wide, and suggested it was a normal wear-and-tear issue. He told the News:
The trucks in question are long out of factory warranty and owners manuals urge customers to have their brake lines inspected the same way brake pads need replacement for wear. In fact, more than 20 states require brake-line inspections at one- or two-year intervals or when stopped for a violation.
Here's the text of a letter I sent today to GM CEO Mary Barra. As I indicate, we welcomed her affirmative response to our request last month for a recall of a separate set of vehicles with a different problem.
Dear Ms. Barra:
We ask General Motors (the Company) to recall model years 1999 through 2003 for the following vehicles: Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Sierra, GMC Tahoe and GMC Yukon.
These six million pickups and SUVs endanger the lives and safety of their owners due to a loss of braking related to brake line corrosion.
It looks like there is yet another problem with GM vehicles that has been left unresolved. Chevy Silverados and other GM vehicles are being investigated for brake line corrosion by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA reports 890 complaints for brake failure resulting from "brake pipe corrosion."
General Motors reported lackluster first quarter earnings' results as the company took a $1.3 billion charge related to recalls. Most of the expenses for the approximately 7 million vehicles recalled, however, were not actually incurred during the first quarter.
In addition, the $1.3 billion figure is far lower than what the recall will cost GM. The power steering recall alone of about 1.5 million vehicles (which was prompted by NLPC's exposure of the recall delay) is likely to cost more than that. The estimated cost for replacement of power steering columns is in the area of $1,300 per unit, bringing the total for this single recall to roughly $2 billion. That doesn't include loaner cars.