General Motors CEO Mary Barra addressed her staff and press today, announcing the completion of the internal investigation into the ignition switch recall. A 325-pg document was later released, chronicling years of missteps and mishandling the safety risk that has claimed at least 13 lives.
Prepared by a team hired by GM, and lead by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, the report (pdf) is based on more than 350 interviews with over 230 individuals and more than 41 million documents.
“I can tell you the report is extremely thorough, brutally tough, and deeply troubling. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to this company, it is enormously painful to have our shortcomings laid out so vividly,” said Barra.
Barra later stated, “What the Valukas investigation uncovered—in this situation—is a pattern of incompetence and neglect.“
In consequence, GM has removed 15 employees, including reportedly some decision makers at the executive level, and disciplined five more.
This report and the dismissals are the latest steps by GM to try to address this debacle, but there are still unanswered questions about how the company allowed these problems to persist for so long. A Justice Department investigation is ongoing. The automaker has reportedly handed over to Congress a million pages of documents, and we expect more hearings on Capitol Hill this summer.
Barra has pledged that the “new” General Motors won’t repeat the mistakes of pre-bankruptcy GM, committing to significant operational improvements to ensure the safety of its products. And Barra announced that funds will be allocated to compensate affected families of those killed or injured due to the faulty ignitions, but specifics have not been released.
So far, it’s mostly promises that the automaker will do the right thing, We’re going to keep pressing for GM to follow through.
There are several bills pending in Congress that aim to ensure a tragedy like this doesn’t ever happen again. One bill would require automakers to provide more information about deaths and injuries to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which would make that information available to the public in a searchable, user-friendly format. Another bill would provide NHTSA the necessary budget for more inspections and oversight, as well as increase the penalties for manufacturers that violate federal safety standards. Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, believes Congress should enact legislation to address these concerns without delay.
—Jeff Bartlett and Ami Gadhia