It has now been more than three months since news broke that General Motors, once again, failed to properly protect owners of its vehicles from risks resulting from shoddy quality control. The latest incident involves about 1.4 million GM vehicles that were at risk of erupting into flames due to engine oil seepage. The at-risk vehicles were previously recalled by GM years ago, but the quick-fix remedy offered by GM did not solve the underlying problem.
The New York Times reports that the Justice Department has concluded that there was criminal wrongdoing by General Motors as the company covered-up a deadly ignition switch defect for years. That defect has now been blamed for causing the deaths of at least 107 motorists. While many observers may have been able to come to the conclusion that GM was guilty long before the Justice Department’s recent epiphany, the bigger question now is, what’s next?
It appears that General Motors is trying to remedy one of the latest criticisms against them. That criticism is that the company has way too large a “cash hoard” and most recently came from former Obama Auto Task Force member turned shareholder activist, Harry Wilson. Well Harry, be at ease; GM has managed to reduce that so-called hoard by over $3 billion in just three months as first quarter earnings flopped on Wall Street.
The verdict is in from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on General Motors’ corroding brake line problem. Despite having received thousands of complaints from motorists regarding brake failure due to brake line rust, the agency claims GM does not have higher failure rates than other manufacturers. The clear evidence to the contrary makes this a classic case of what economists call "regulatory capture." First identified by Nobel laureate George Stigler (in photo) in 1971, it's when a government agency tasked with protecting the public interest instead acts to the benefit of an industry or particular company.
Today, we requested that the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform undertake an "independent" investigation of the General Motors ignition switch recall delay, in light of newly obtained emails by lawyers suing GM.
Those emails suggest that the Treasury may have timed its final sale of GM shares to precede public knowledge of the ignition switch fiasco. They also cast doubt on GM CEO Mary Barra's previous account of what she knew and when she knew it.
Here is the text of a letter I sent today to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), in photo, the incoming Chairman of the Oversight & Government Reform Committee:
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.
Today I sent the following letter to Dr. Gretchen Green, the Acting Chair of the National Women's History Museum:
We ask the National Women's History Museum (NWHM) to withdraw its planned award to General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
As you know, Barra is scheduled to receive the Katharine Graham Living Legacy Award on November 17 as part of your annual de Pizan Honors at The Mead Center for American Theater at Arena Stage in Washington, DC.
Barra has indeed made history - of the wrong kind.
Every so often a General Motors' truck owner forwards me their story regarding problems with brake line rust, a problem that executives at GM refuse to acknowledge. One recent such correspondence tells of one of the highest repair bills that I have heard of relating to corrosion and failed brake lines. Repairs were made to the vehicle after the owner narrowly avoided an accident as a result of failed brakes due to the corroded brake lines.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) faced some of its heaviest criticism to date last week on Capitol Hill. Hearings addressing the failings of the agency were headed by Senator Claire McCaskill and centered around NHTSA's part in General Motors' deadly ignition switch recall delay. The death toll (currently at 20) continues to rise as a result of GM and NHTSA allowing the dangerously defective vehicles to remain on the roads for about 10 years from when the problem was first recognized. While the criticism of NHTSA is well-deserved, it is past time for harsh words to be accompanied by an overhaul of the agency.