Serving clients in Fayetteville and all of NW Arkansas
At the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak, we have been closely tracking the GM ignition switch defect debacle. Top GM executives, including CEO Mary Barra, have claimed time and time again that they did not know about the GM ignition switch defects. Rather, they say, it was only engineering and legal departments that had the knowledge but failed to share it. However, a report released last June by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas was extremely critical of the actions taken by GM and its executives. In fact, GM’s CEO characterized the report as, “extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling.”
And the failures of regulators, executives, engineers, and early warning reporting (EWR) are indeed troubling. As of the writing of this article, the company has recalled approximately 30 million vehicles for ignition switch issues with 26.4 million of those recalls occurring in the United States this year. Furthermore, the defect has been linked to at least 23 deaths despite numerous recall campaigns.
But, it appears that the situation may get worse before it gets better. New revelations that were not previously released have revealed that GM may have known about the defect for months before it took public action. These revelations may result in revealing a cover-up that may be just as bad, if not worse, than the defect itself.
Newly released e-mails reveal that GM knew about the defect, but did not report it to NHTSA
These newly released emails were sent during December 2013 – at least two months prior to GM’s initial notification to NHTSA on February 7, 2014, and the initial ignition switch recall on the 13th of February. The e-mails were mostly concerned with GM’s efforts to procure hundreds of thousand of replacement switches from suppliers like Delphi – the company who supplied the defective batches of switches. One e-mail sent by a GM contractor to Delphi requested at least 500,000 new parts and stated that they were required ASAP. In short, what these e-mails show is that despite having the knowledge that there were defective ignition switches in vehicles and taking action to procure replacement parts, the company did not move to inform regulators or consumers for months. Large vehicle manufacturers, like GM, are required to report safety defects to NHTSA within 5 days.
in response to the e-mail release GM spokesman Alan Adler stated that, “These e-mails are further confirmation that our system needed reform, and we have done so,” referring to the recent reorganization of GM safety divisions. The author of the original report, Anton Valukas, stood by the findings that he had initially reported to Congress stating that, “we found failures throughout the company — including individual errors, poor management, byzantine committee structures, lack of training and inadequate policies.”
Why didn’t GM, at minimum, inform its customers & the public?
We can’t, for sure, say what decision or systemic failure led GM to decide that the best course of action was keeping its customers and federal regulators in the dark. However, perhaps that begs an even more poignant inquiry: If GM knew that it was going to have to issue a recall and it knew that the occurrences of the defect could be made less likely by removing key rings and minimizing the weight supported by the switch, why didn’t relay that information immediately?
If GM had informed customers of the ignition switch defect, those individuals could have arranged alternate transportation. Furthermore, if they had provided information regarding reducing the likelihood of this defect occurring, more people could have removed heavy key rings and other objects known to aggravate the problem. But, GM didn’t take public action.
It is difficult to understand how a system could have broken down so badly when it was not just customer trust and brand reputation on the line, but actual human lives at stake. Let us hope that the issue was, as GM claims, a systemic one that has been corrected.
How can I minimize my risk of serious injury due to the GM ignition switch defect?
The only foolproof means of ensuring that you are not injured by the ignition switch defect is to park your affected vehicle and do not drive it until it can be repaired. While repair times had been extremely long, it appears that parts are finally arriving in sufficient numbers. Signaling the arrival of the replacement parts, GM is offering an incentive to vehicle owners who make the essential repairs by December 1st by offering $25 gift cards. Otherwise, GM has recommended removing key chains and heavy objects from the ignition key and using the key by itself when starting and operating an affected vehicle. However, if you have already been injured and suspect that the GM ignition switch defect played a role, contact the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak by calling 479-419-1843 or contact us online today.
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