In 2005, General Motors Co. made a conscious decision – to not change the design of a defective ignition switch eventually linked to 13 deaths. According to a Reuters news report, the automaker saved less than $1 per car by putting off that switch redesign, which could have saved lives and prevented injuries. This information came out through an internal GM document provided to U.S. congressional investigators.
Documents Shed Light on Cost of Fix
Lawmakers have been questioning GM CEO Mary Barra about the company’s failure to recall 2.6 million cars for faulty ignition switches that could cut off engines and disable airbags, power steering and power brakes. GM knew about the problem more than a decade ago.
Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette cited a 2005 GM document during the hearings, which she said, showed a cost of 57 cents per fix. Although Reuters could not get a copy of that document, they obtained another one which showed that the change in ignition switch design would have cost an extra 90 cents per vehicle and additional tooling costs of $400,000 overall spread over several years.
Families Demand Criminal Proceedings
The families of those who died as a result of these vehicle defects, which GM knew about and failed to fix, want prosecutors to go after GM insiders responsible for letting the problems fester and for allowing the cover-up. The Associated Press talked to Leo Ruddy, whose 21-year-old daughter Kelly, was killed in 2010 when her Chevy Cobalt veered off the highway inexplicably and crashed.
Other family members who have lost loved ones due to this defect have echoed the same sentiments. GM has acknowledged that in 2004 and 2005, engineers submitted proposals to fix the switches in Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars, but the fixes were never implemented. The Justice Department hasn’t confirmed that it’s investigating General Motors, but a person familiar with the case has told AP that the probe is underway.
Holding Wrongdoers Accountable
It is perfectly justified that families that have lost their loved ones want GM to pay – one way or the other. In our opinion, GM should be held civilly and criminally liable. As an auto product liability attorney who has been fighting automakers on behalf of those who have been injured by defective autos, it is certainly appalling but not surprising to me that it would’ve cost GM under $1 to fix the problem. They still did not do it. It is a pattern among product manufacturers to put profits before the welfare and safety of consumers – the people who buy their products and make them profitable. There is only one way to make this horrible wrong right. GM must be held accountable for failing to follow the law and then trying to cover up the truth.