Lawmakers Challenge GM's Reasons for Recall Delays | Edmunds

Lawmakers Challenge GM's Reasons for Recall Delays


Just the Facts:
  • U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday challenged General Motors' assertion that its employees didn't act sooner to recall the Chevrolet Cobalt because they considered engine stalling problems to be a "customer convenience" issue rather than a safety problem.
  • Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said the latest recall of 3.4 million GM midsize and fullsize cars "appears to follow the same disturbing pattern as the Cobalt."
  • But GM CEO Mary Barra told lawmakers that GM now considers stalling to be a safety problem.

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday challenged General Motors' assertion that its employees didn't act sooner to recall the Chevrolet Cobalt because they considered engine stalling problems to be a "customer convenience" issue rather than a safety problem.

Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said the latest recall of 3.4 million GM midsize and fullsize cars "appears to follow the same disturbing pattern as the Cobalt."

The Cobalt, the Saturn Ion and other GM small cars were recalled earlier this year to replace faulty ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths in the past 10 years. GM engineers determined as early as 2002 that the switches could too easily be moved out of the "run" position by a knee bump or a heavy key chain, stalling the engine while traveling, and causing loss of power steering and power brakes and the failure of air bags to deploy in a crash.

On Monday, GM recalled the Chevrolet Impala, the Cadillac DeVille and other sedans for similar issues.

During GM CEO Mary Barra's testimony Wednesday at a House committee hearing, Upton introduced an internal GM email chain in 2005, describing how a 2006 Impala suffered an engine stall when the driver, a GM engineer, bumped the key with her knee.

"I'm thinking this is a serious problem, especially if this switch is on multiple platforms," wrote the engineer to her GM colleagues, including the vice president of engineering. "I'm thinking big recall."

But no action was taken for nine years.

Barra told the committee she would take "immediate action" if she received a similar email today.

The results of an internal GM investigation, released two weeks ago, found no evidence that any GM employee "made a tradeoff between safety and cost" in evaluating whether and when to recall the Cobalt.

While CEO Barra has made a public commitment to changing the way GM deals with safety defects and recalls, Upton on Wednesday said, "A culture that allowed safety problems to fester for years will be hard to change."

Edmunds says: Consumers get more insight into the mindset of General Motors and how it dealt with problems in the past.

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