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Final Count For GM's Ignition Switch Defect: 124 Dead, $594 Million In Settlements

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Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: GM Ignition Switch Payout

While the world has moved on to being mad at Volkswagen for cheating on emissions, let us not be quick to forget that General Motors’ incompetence actually killed people. One-hundred twenty four people, to be exact, and a “final report” on the ignition switch fiasco shows $594 million in settlements. That’s a little less than what the automaker told investors it expected to pay, according to Bloomberg:

A final report released by Feinberg on Thursday concluded 124 people died in relation to ignition switches in GM compact cars, and another 275 suffered injuries warranting compensation. The Feinberg-led firm said GM paid out on less than 10 percent of 4,343 claims submitted, for a total of $594 million in settlements.

[...] “We faced the ignition switch issue with integrity, dignity and a clear determination to do the right thing both in the short and long term,” Jim Cain, a GM spokesman said in a statement. “The settlement facility is just one example. It was fair, compassionate, generous and non-adversarial.”


2nd Gear: Volkswagen Blames Culture That Tolerated Cheating, But Not Failure

GM’s announcement aside, the biggest news in the car world is Volkswagen’s “we’re sorry” press conference in Germany. Our own Máté Petrány has a good writeup of the developments here and you should read it if you haven’t.


I have one thing to add for now. Remember Bob Lutz’s story in Road & Track about how Volkswagen’s employees lived in fear of failing, or being seen as incompetent, and how he surmised that was the root cause of Dieselgate? Turns out he was right.

3rd Gear: Japanese, Volkswagen Ranked Safest By IIHS

In this era of rigorous, legislated safety standards, who makes the safest cars? According to the Institute for Highway Safety, it’s Toyota, followed by Honda, Subaru and Volkswagen. Via Reuters:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry funded group that prods automakers into building safer cars by awarding influential ratings, said Thursday that Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T) topped the list of 48 Top Safety Pick+ of 2016 with 9 winners, which included the Camry, the best-selling U.S. car.

Another 13 qualified for the second highest award on the list, which is known as the Top Safety Pick. The awards, often used in automaker advertising, follow tougher criteria for safety standards this year than in the past.

See all the picks here. The only American-ish cars to get the Top Safety Pick+ award were the Chrysler 200 and Fiat 500X, but the latter’s clearly a pretty loose definition of “American.” Whatever that means anymore.

4th Gear: Fiat Chrysler Nailed With Another Safety Fine

Speaking of safety, just months after a $105 million settlement with America’s auto safety regulators, Fiat Chrysler will pay a separate $70 million penalty for failing to disclose vehicle crash death and injury reports properly, reports Reuters:

Fiat Chrysler told NHTSA earlier this year it had problems with its software for extracting information from a company database to submit to NHTSA, and as a result significantly under-reported death and injury claims. There is no indication that Fiat Chrysler intentionally hid the reports and no suggestion that NHTSA failed to discover safety defects because of the missing reports.

Fiat Chrysler said in September “it takes this issue extremely seriously, and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA to resolve this matter and ensure these issues do not re-occur.”


5th Gear: More-Vette

Here’s some good news if you like Corvettes: GM is investing millions to add capacity to its famed Bowling Green, Kentucky plant. Go there and build your own Z06 engine, reports The Detroit Free Press:

General Motors will spend $44 million to add capacity at its Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., the company said today.

The investment will add 36 new jobs at the plant’s Performance Build Center, where customers can participate in the assembly of the 650-horsepower supercharged LT4 engine.


Reverse: An Early Million


Neutral: Who Sucks The Most?

Today was a Morning Shift full of fails, between GM’s death count, Dieselgate and Fiat Chrysler’s ongoing problems with safety and recalls. Who, including other companies, is kind of the worst right now?


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