E-mails show GM failed to disclose key info over ignition switch issue

Article by Christian A., on November 13, 2014

General Motors still failed to disclose vital information about its ignition-switch recall even after Mary Barra sat as its new chief executive, according to newly released December e-mails by the carmaker. The e-mails weren’t included the 315-page report prepared by former United States Attorney Anton Valukas and released on June 5.

The December e-mails detailed the carmaker’s efforts to order hundreds of thousands of replacement parts and showed that GM knows was an issue that time that it hadn’t yet reported to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. US law requires carmakers to report safety-related defects within five days.

The e-mails showed that in mid-December, or two months before GM informed owners about the faulty ignition switch, GM was already in contact with its supplier to have a better part go into production. That piece of information wasn’t disclosed to the NHTSA and wasn’t included in Valukas report. GM, however, said that its reporting system needed reform.

GM spokesman Alan Adler told Bloomberg in an e-mail that the carmaker has reorganized its entire safety investigation and decision process and now has “more investigators, move issues more quickly and make decisions with better data.”

GM’s latest disclosures highlight the fact that the carmaker remained uncertain whether it should report to the NHTSA that its vehicles had a potential safety issue.

The disclosures also give rise to questions whether GM provides all related information to Valukas, who the carmaker tapped to study delays in the recall decision.

David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, told Bloomberg that the GM case has become similar to Watergate, where the cover-up became worse than the problem. “What crack did this fall into and why was it not really recognized far earlier?” he asked.

Just recently, GM disclosed that is tapping the power of the Internet to have owners of older small cars affected by the faulty ignition switch recall to bring their units in to replace defective parts.

GM has been campaigning to bring in around 2.2 million affected cars in the US into dealerships to fix the issue. GM has spent months tracking down contact information and mailing recall notices. However, around 1 million of the cars were still a no-show and remained unfixed. GM calls the owners of these unrepaired cars as the "unengaged audience." To reach them, GM is using the power of the Internet. This unengaged audience only needs to click on an ad urging them to have their faulty ignition switches replaced before something bad happens.

GM’s latest digital-marketing campaign is being done in collaboration with analytics firm Acxiom Corp., to place recall ads that reach a majority of those unengaged audience on popular sites such as Facebook.

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