GM Knew of Safety Flaw, Released Cobalt Anyway
Exec acknowledges 'business decision'
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Mar 25, 2014 8:33 AM CDT
In this Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008, file photo, the Chevy Cobalt moves on the assembly line at the Lordstown Assembly Plant in Lordstown, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

(Newser) – The 2005 Cobalt's ignition-switch issues—which, according to one watchdog, contributed to hundreds of deaths—apparently came as no surprise to General Motors. The company released the cars despite its awareness of the problem, the Wall Street Journal reports, with engineers rationalizing that even if the car stalled, drivers could still coast their way to safety. Asked in a deposition last year if GM had made "a business decision not to fix this problem," exec Gary Altman acknowledged that "that is what happened, yes."

Altman argued that drivers weren't in danger: "We've sold vehicles for many, many years without power assist and the car was maneuverable and controllable." At a May 2009 GM engineers meeting, the problem was confirmed, the New York Times reports. Yet when victims' families raised concerns, the company brushed them aside or reached settlements to ensure confidentiality. In one case, GM demanded legal fees be reimbursed unless a suit was dropped. CEO Mary Barra says the vehicles are "safe to drive" as long as drivers use "just the ring with the key," rather than a heavy keychain, the Journal notes. She says she asked engineers: "Would you let your wife drive this car? And they said yes."

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Showing 3 of 15 comments
iq145
Mar 25, 2014 9:48 PM CDT
That's exactly what Toyota did a couple years ago http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/21/toya-m21.html http://www.carabinshaw.com/toyotas-recall-dangerous-gas-pedals.html
TiredMemeCat
Mar 25, 2014 7:57 PM CDT
Never forget: Engineers *never* had final say at the GM; the BEANCOUNTERS did! The switches in question were made cheap (deadly cheap) and relates directly back to GM spinning off their electrical components division to a stand alone company (Delphi). Why? Same reason as always: to screw over the long-time and retired employees out of their promised benefits! Delphi hired lower-paid, inexperienced workers and designers and GM banked the difference. Every mid and upper level PHB that was involved with this ignition switch from day one should be in prison as people died for their bonuses for 'making the quarter'. One of the founders of GM once said: "GM isn't in the business of making cars; GM is in the business of making money". Along with killing people for pennies.
Gart
Mar 25, 2014 4:30 PM CDT
How about the major issue the article ignores? The idiocy of a person who would buy a Chevy Cobalt in the first place...