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.
It has now been over six months since General Motors finally recalled vehicles with a known deadly ignition switch defect. The defect was attributed with being the cause of accidents that resulted in at least 13 deaths. The Wall Street Journal now reports that only 34% of the recalled vehicles have been fixed.
GM has taken $3.4 billion in charges and losses on the past two earnings' reports for all of their recalls, despite the fact that most of the recalled vehicles have yet to be repaired. The most questionable part of GM's charges come from the first quarter's earnings' report.
General Motors continues to deny that it has a safety problem with brake lines that are prone to corrosion in as few as five or six years. Thousands of owners of GM trucks and SUVs have complained of failing brakes due to brake lines bursting from the rust problem. One of these owners, Joe Palumbo from Pennsylvania, has made it a quest (see his website here) to expose the safety defect, thus far to little avail. GM's latest response to Mr. Palumbo includes an implied admission that the company has been using inferior quality brake lines in its vehicles.
General Motors has yet another unresolved safety concern with its vehicles. This one involves trucks with anti-lock braking system (ABS) problems. The ABS in some GM trucks engages at slow speeds in dry conditions, leading to a loss of braking and increased stopping distances. Once again, this is a known problem at GM, as they have recalled vehicles previously from earlier model years with the same problem.