General Motors has been claiming for a while now that they've cooperated with investigators, and are now coming totally clean, and they've gotten rid of all the bad apples. But a new report says GM was apparently allergic to telling anyone the truth about their crashes.
No matter what, GM CEO Mary Barra said, the company did not conspire to cover up the problem. Now, according to a report from the New York Times, that was not the truth:
The car crash that killed Gene Erickson caught the attention of federal regulators. Why did the Saturn Ion he was traveling in, along a rural Texas road, suddenly swerve into a tree? Why did the air bags fail? General Motors told federal authorities that it could not provide answers.
But only a month earlier, a G.M. engineer had concluded in an internal evaluation that the Ion had most likely lost power, disabling its air bags, according to a subsequent internal investigation commissioned by G.M.
Three times, federal regulators asked GM why its cars had crashed, and if they could answer as to why people like Gene Erickson were dead.
Each time, GM gave a different answer, according to the report. In Gene Erickson's case, it sounds like the company flat-out lied. In another case, it made up the excuse that it could not divulge information due to "attorney-client privilege." And in multiple other instances, GM just replied with "GM opts not to respond."
Those heinous-sounding replies all come from reports ominously known as "death inquiries," which seek to answer why a fatality occurred in a crash.
And to add insult to injury, in the case of the death of Gene Erickson, the driver of the vehicle he was riding in, Candice Anderson, eventually plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide, because she was found to have a trace of Xanax in her system.
GM even went so far as to tell the court that Anderson was "intoxicated on illegal drugs."
Obviously, the car didn't crash because of that. It crashed because GM didn't build the car correctly.
In case after case, GM either denied that it had conducted internal investigations when it had, or in many cases, refused to even say whether or not it had conducted an investigation.
Furthermore, GM had serious communication issues. In one instance, GM received a Vermont State Trooper's crash report that directly linked a failure of the ignition switch to a failure of the air bags. Only one person in the entire company opened up the report and was aware of it.
The report was then actually submitted to regulators, who ignored it.
Which brings up the salient point, that regulators here were also incredibly incompetent. They often accepted dodgy answers as acceptable, for some reason, and other times just completely ignored all the evidence that something catastrophic was going on, even when it was right in front of their faces.
GM CEO Mary Barra is scheduled to testify in front of Congress one more time tomorrow. It's going to be interesting, to say the least.
Go read the rest of the report over at the New York Times, and be prepared to be disgusted.