Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where Is GM's CEO?

kdmceoA vacuum.  Where you would quite reasonably expect thoughtful, proactive communications — an acknowledgement of a serious safety problem, an apology and a plan to fix the problem — you get … nothing. 

I’m referring, of course, to the latest chapter in GM’s ongoing tale of troubles.

As you probably know, General Motors recently acknowledged that it received reports of a safety defect in the ignition switches in some of its cars much earlier than previously disclosed.  The defect has been linked to 12 deaths and at least 31 accidents over the past decade.  A new wave of recalls has followed. 

Where were the regulators?  Even after having received more than 70 complaints of ignition-related problems since 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration repeatedly reported that there was not enough evidence of a problem to warrant a safety investigation.

According to The New York Times, it wasn’t until after a House committee reported  that it would be conducting its own investigation, that Alan Adler, a GM spokesman, wrote in an email that “today’s GM is fully committed to learning from the past.”

It’s another case of “too little, too late” syndrome.  The regulators, General Motors and GM’s CEO, Mary Barra — everyone involved — dropped the ball. 

Barra should have addressed the extent of the recall, expressed regret and sympathy for those whose lives were impacted by the engineering defect, and detailed the steps being taken by General Motors to ensure the safety of its customers (which is now an issue for everyone driving a GM car).

Steve Smith, who spent 30 years making parts for GM, lost his daughter in a crash that may have been caused by a faulty ignition switch.  “That’s what haunts me the most,” he said.  “We knew something was wrong.  The car should have been checked on.  I feel guilty.”

Smith’s concern should have been matched — or exceeded — by that of General Motors’ leadership.