Read the article GM: Ignorance left ‘switch from hell’ unfixed (Topic 3 ? Traditional Risk Management Folder). What very specific type of liability is this ?switch from hell? Be specific and explain.
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USA Today A long-awaited report on General Motors' delayed recall of deadly ignition switches finds no
conspiracy to hide the problem.
Nothing that organized. It documents, instead, a dysfunctional system in which all the information
needed to fix the problem — and save lives — existed within the company going back a decade or
What the report found was that the faulty ignition switch that forced the recall was trouble from the
start, when it was being initially designed for use in the 2003 Saturn Ion.
It "was so plagued with problems that the engineer who designed it labeled it then 'the switch from
hell,'" the report says. Yet, the dots were not connected, nor was action taken amid GM's committee
culture, the report finds.
The report was prepared by Anton Valukas, the former U.S. attorney hired by the automaker to
determine how the company failed to fix a serious flaw in ignition switches that led to the recall earlier
this year of 2.6 million 2003-2011 small cars worldwide. The recall has been directly linked to 54
crashes and 13 deaths.
The switches unexpectedly moved out of the "run" position, shutting off the engine, killing power assist
to the steering and brakes and — the key but long overlooked factor — usually disabling the air bags.
Failure to associate the switch failures with the air-bag failures was a key factor in the long delay, the
report says, and a failing that kept being repeated through the years.
It led to GM viewing the switch fault as an annoyance because the engine died and made the cars hard
to stop and steer, and not as a critical safety issue because of the likelihood of air-bag failure.
This happened as a result of information "silos" in the bureaucracy, but the report also says that "a
critical factor in GM personnel's delay in fixing the switch was their failure to understand, quite simply,
how the car was built."
Accident investigators, meantime — including those dispatched by the federal government — found that
the air bags failed, and began to suspect the failed air bags were linked to failed ignition switches. Lawsuit spurs action
The two pieces only came together, however, last year, when lawyer Lance Cooper sued GM on
behalf of the parents of Brooke Melton, who died in a 2010 crash of the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt she
His probe, and depositions of GM engineers, showed the link between the switch failure and the bag
failure. It revealed that problems were known within GM since 2001.
The Valukas report says that even though GM looked into the switch failures, it didn't connect them to
air-bag failures because of, "at the most fundamental level, the failure by investigators to understand
how GM engineers had designed their own vehicle."
Once the problem became more obvious, no one took charge and made it right: "Although everyone
had responsibility to fix the problem, nobody took responsibility. It was an example of what one top
executive describes as the 'GM nod,' when everyone nods in agreement to a proposed plan of action,
but then leaves the room and does nothing."
The report is based on 41 million pages of GM documents, "forensic" examination of employee
computers — suggesting Valukas' investigators had to retrieve deleted or hidden data — and interviews
with many GM workers.
GM CEO Mary Barra said Thursday, as she presented details at an event for GM employees, that
after she read what she termed the "brutally tough and deeply troubling" report, 15 high-ranking people
were terminated from GM and five more "one level removed" were disciplined.
She said she has reorganized GM's lines of authority so that top executives now are made aware of
safety issues promptly, instead of waiting for them to get bumped up for action, as has been the case.
She previously set up a whistle-blower program to reward and protect GM employees who identify
safety problems that can be avoided.
Some not satisfied
Reaction Thursday was predictable. Senate and House committee members who hauled Barra over
the coals in hearings April 1-2 for the recall delays said, generally, the Valukas report shows GM was
at least as disorganized and incompetent as Capitol Hill accused it of being.
Clarence Ditlow, a veteran industry critic and safety advocate who heads the Center for Auto Safety in
Washington, D.C., said, "The Valukas report is little more than an elaborate whitewash that buys into
GM's arguments that it was a bunch of incompetent engineers, lawyers and midlevel managers who
were fired as a result," and had nothing to do with executives who remain at GM.
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