Faulty GM vehicles recalled after multiple accidents, deaths
The families of the victims were at the hearing with pictures of their loved ones on the wall. They learned that the defective switch is a $0.57 item, yet GM said a recall would be too costly. Mary Barra didn't become CEO of GM until the beginning of this year. She told the committee this came to light on her watch, so she is responsible for solving it.
“Sitting here today, I can't tell you why it took so long for a safety defect to be announced for the program, but I will tell you we will find out,” stated Barra publicly.
When GM got into trouble and had to be bailed out by taxpayers, the company had developed a culture of penny-pinching – putting cost over safety.
“We've moved from a cost culture after the bankruptcy to a customer culture.”
That was all well and good for the company, but a little late for the family members of 13 people who died in GM cars. They say the defective ignition switch that turned off the car's engine, while driving, affected the steering and wouldn't allow the airbag to deploy in a crash. Here's how that happens:
“If (the driver has) a heavy key chain, like my Mom's key chain, or if you were short and bumped into the ignition with your knee, it could cause this key to switch right off.”
In other words, any weight beyond the ignition key itself can cause the key to be switched out of the run position to accessory, or off. This caused 31 crashes and 13 deaths, the first in 2005 after GM knew the switch did not meet its specifications, but put it in anyway.
“We are the people left behind when a loved one got into what was supposed to be a safe car, a GM car, a car that GM knew for years was dangerous and defective,” said Laura Christian, mother of deceased daughter.
“They don't care about our lives,” continued Cherie Sharkey, after losing her son in a GM vehicle. “I'm an angry mother, my family's hurt.”
It took 10 years for GM to start recalling cars, now 2.6 million of them, including the Chevy Cobalt and HHR, Pontiac Solstice and G5, and Saturn's Ion and Sky. Hundreds of thousands of these cars are out there on the roads. The owners are being sought by letter, website and social media to contact the dealerships.
“We've empowered our dealers to take extraordinary measures to treat each case specifically,” stated Barra.
Like offering a loner car while the repair is being made, but the switches won't be available until April 7th. In the meantime, GM knows it has civil and legal problems here. A consultant has been hired to determine a fair compensation for the victims' families. The answers to these unresolved questions will likely be 200,000 documents GM has turned over to the committee.