By now, you have probably heard about GM's ignition switch problem that led to a massive recall of vehicles and was linked to at least 13 admitted deaths. But this problem may have only been a symptom of a more serious disease.
A former GM quality auditor recently spoke to NBC News, and revealed that the auto company purposefully dismantled a comprehensive safety and quality program in the late 1990s. For nearly 15 years, the auditor was in charge of GM's Global Delivery Survey program, time during which he and his team initiated the investigation of the root causes of serious technical problems they had discovered in a number of GM vehicles.
At first, the auditor said GM leadership agreed that problems that threatened driver safety had to be corrected immediately. But late in the 90s, something changed. He says that it became no longer acceptable to report or respond to technical problems with vehicles at GM. In 1998, the auditor was transferred from his job and the audit program was restructured into a skeletal resemblance of its former self. By 2002, the safety and quality audit program had been dismantled altogether.
The auditor says that GM's actions were part of a widespread model of "willful ignorance," perhaps partially in response to federal legislation passed in 2000 requiring automakers to report information concerning possible vehicle defects to the government. The auditor's successor who headed the Global Delivery Survey program for its final four years voiced similar concerns.
The auditor says he is speaking out now because in light of recent GM recalls, people are finally listening. GM company officials do not dispute the auditor's version of the facts, but say he is off base in his conclusions.
GM is not the first auto maker to turn a blind eye to safety defects and won't be the last. In an industry where there is little accountability other than produced individual civil suits for injury, and NHTSA has little to no proactive policing, there is no real fear of repercussions if consumer safety issues are swept under the rug.
The law firm of Walkup Melodia is representing victims of the GM ignition switch safety defect. Through the years the Walkup firm has been at the forefront of auto safety struggles on behalf of consumers. From crashworthiness to fuel-fed vehicle fires to roll-over stability to tire safety, the firm has stepped in to help when government regulators have abdicated responsibility.
If you were injured in a car accident involving a GM vehicle defect, or if you lost a family member in such an accident, you deserve - and are entitled to - compensation from the company that let a dangerous product defect slip into the stream of commerce.
NBC News, "'Willful Ignorance': Ex-Auditor Blasts GM for Cutting Safety Program," Gabe Gutierrez, July 11, 2014