Ignition switch problems with General Motors vehicles have resulted in a flurry of litigation, federal investigations, and even a Saturday Night Live skit.
The person taking most of the heat for GM’s recall of 2.6 million cars is CEO Mary Barra. She was grilled before a congressional committee that demanded to know why the company took a decade to recall cars with a defect linked to 13 deaths.
“We had more of a cost culture,” Barra said of the company before it was bailed out with public dollars, “and now we have a customer culture.”
The idea of a “new GM” was lampooned both by SNL actors and congress members who note that the company has been less transparent in its investigation of the ignition switch defect.
“Well, I think this is a real moment of truth for General Motors,”Sen. Claire McCaskil said. “They’ve tried to lawyer up and play whack-a-mole with these lawsuits and terrible things have happened. Now it’s time for them to come clean, be transparent and most of all make all victims whole, no matter when this deadly ignition caused heartbreak in their families.”
McCaskil also left open the possibility that GM employees may be criminally punished for failing to issue a recall sooner. Evidence indicates that engineers recognized the problem was early as 2001 but failed to push for a recall due to cost concerns.
Some experts have questioned the standing of lawsuits against GM. It received immunity from lawsuits as part of its bankruptcy 2009 filing. Many attorneys throughout California are accepting defective product cases against the manufacturer.