Sep 6, 2019
Almost one year ago this month, a federal judge in New York dismissed criminal charges against General Motors. The charges were concerning GM's defective ignition switches, a safety leadership crisis that led to one of the most dangerous vehicle defects and biggest recalls in U.S. history. As part of that dismissal, GM paid a $900 million penalty and consented to federal monitoring to suggest ways to develop safety training in their organization.
GM says it embraced many of the proposals, which have not been made publicly known, but company representative Dan Flores said most of the reforms the carmaker executed came before the monitor’s September 2015 installation.
GM leaders maintain the "don't tell" safety culture (or lack thereof) that led to the ignition switch disaster is in the rear-view mirror. Now, safety leaders actively encourage all employees, merchants, and suppliers to report immediately whenever they see a possible safety problem.
"Openness and accountability are two things that are very different at GM now," Maryann Combs, GM's vice president of global vehicle safety, told the Free Press. "Everyone is encouraged to speak up on safety issues. They’ll be followed up on and we’ll take action."
The amount of recalls GM has announced in modern years has regularly decreased, but some safety leadership experts warn that given the complicated circumstances that prompt automobile recalls, it is still too soon to conclusively say GM's vehicles are truly safer.
GM's Combs recognizes that the organization at times will have recalls involving a notable volume of vehicles. But GM is striving to catch defects quicker than it has done previously.
GM's 2014 ignition switch crisis produced a recall of nearly 30 million small cars globally and is attributed to at least 124 deaths and 275 injuries. That significance is why GM leaders want to keep it on employees' minds so that the failure in safety leadership will not recur again. "Every day we make our safety processes better, but we don’t want people to ever forget (the ignition switch crisis), and if you’re new, you learn about it," Combs said of the scandal.
GM has made a set of reforms since the 2014 ignition switch recall.
First, it designed the Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety position, now maintained by Combs, to communicate to top GM safety leadership.
The role centers on recalls and safety training before, during and after the car is engineered, manufactured and marketed. Combs said her job is to interact with GM leadership daily to guarantee that top brass, including the board of directors, won't be blindsided by a significant mistake again and that they are accountable for vehicle quality.
GM also made these adjustments:
A year ago this month, a federal judge in New York dismissed criminal charges against General Motors. The charges were in connection to GM's faulty ignition switches, a crisis that led to one of the deadliest vehicle defects and biggest recalls in U.S. history. As part of that dismissal, GM paid a $900 million fine and agreed to federal monitoring to recommend ways to improve safety.
GM says it adopted many of the recommendations, which are not public, but company spokesman Dan Flores said most of the changes the carmaker made came before the monitor’s September 2015 appointment.