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General Motors’ Defective Ignition Switches Subject of CEO Testimony

Posted on behalf of Harbin & Burnett on Apr 04, 2014 in Defective Products

In the past month, General Motors has recalled 6.3 million vehicles globally, and lawmakers want to know why.  The CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, testified in front of the Houses Energy and 

Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and tried to explain the events leading up to the massive recall.

Ms. Barra, who took over as CEO in January, apologized for the companys failure to put consumer safety first. According to documents provided to the House committee, GM was aware of a flaw in the ignition switch

 which caused the engine in vehicles like the Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion to shut off while driving. GM received at least 133 complaints explaining that the customers vehicle would stall or turn off whenever the car hit a bump on the road or the ignition was jostled. 

Recalled GM Vehicles InfographicCompany Knew about Defects for Several Years

Evidence submitted to the House committee suggests that GM knew the ignition switch was defective for nearly a decade. Initially, the project engineer in charge of the ignition switches, Ray DeGiorgio, testified that he was unaware that the switches were defective, and that he never authorized a change in the switches design.

This assertion was directly contradicted by documents bearing Mr. DeGiorgios signature which authorized the change in the design of the switch in 2006.   Even though GM knew at that time that the ignition switch was defective, GM did not alert the public or issue a vehicle recall so that customers could repair the faulty part.

The ignition switches also caused the airbags to fail in the same vehicles in 2007 and 2010. These airbag failures were investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but no recall was ever issued. When questioned about this, David Friedman, the acting administrator of the NHTSA, blamed GM for failing to provide all of the information needed to connect the faulty ignition switches to the airbag failures.

GM Taking Action to Correct Past Mistakes

Ms. Barra described GMs failure to recall the defective switches in GM vehicles disturbing and unacceptable. To begin correcting these actions, Ms. Barra confirmed that GM has hired an attorney to manage the victims compensation fund being created to settle the multiple wrongful death and personal injury claims that stem from the defective ignition switch.

In addition, GM is considering paying on the claims of people who were injured prior to GM filing bankruptcy in 2009. Legally, all injuries that occurred before the bankruptcy filing are part of the bankruptcy case and are not entitled to compensation from GM. However, GM may decide to provide for these victims as a gesture of good will, but will probably not make a decision on that issue for several months. 


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