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The GM Recall: Did the auto industry forget the lessons of the Pinto?

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  It seems that the auto industry does not learn from past mistakes.  When the design of the Ford Pinto was found to be defective and the cause of the explosions that killed people in accidents involving the car, it was discovered that Ford had prior knowledge of the defect but decided that the cost of recalling and fixing the popular model would be greater than the amount of money the company was likely to pay in lawsuits over the accidents.  Placing a monetary value on human life–and a losing one at that–created a huge scandal that rocked the auto industry and forced a re-evaluation of its culture of profit.

    Does this all sound familiar?  As the saying goes, we have watched this movie before, and are watching it again with the General Motors recall.  Your Denver Auto Accident Attorney points out that in 2004, a full decade before GM began its massive recall of cars with the defective ignition switch, GM knew about the problem and the potential deadly consequences.  By 2005, GM had decided against recalling and retooling, with internal documents revealing a cost-benefit analysis reminiscent of Ford’s: it would cost less money to pay for the damages in lawsuits than it would to recall and fix the millions of cars with the faulty switch.  In 2007 the first death related to the defective ignition switch occurred.

    Fast forward to 2014.  Mary Barra, the new CEO of GM testified before Congress regarding the internal investigation into why it took the automaker nearly a decade to recall the cars with the defective–and deadly–part.  Barra stated that GM has already recalled 2.6 million cars with the faulty ignition switch and is working on replacing them.  In testimony, Barra apologized to all GM consumers and in particular the families of victims, promising to change GM’s culture from one focused on cost to one focused on the consumer and safety.  To that end, she announced a new initiative called the “global product integrity organization,” which would involve the heads of worldwide product development and new model development.  Another new initiative is an employee-friendly protocol for all levels of GM workers to report possible safety problems to the company’s senior management.

    But the lawsuits are being filed, the federal investigations ensuing, and the Congressional inquiries proceeding.  Your Denver Auto Accident Attorney emphasizes that once again, the cost-benefit analysis used to conclude that it was cheaper to keep the defective part in the cars failed to include the enormous price to be paid when future plaintiffs, investigators, and the public find out that people’s lives were not considered worth the cost of fixing the defect.  Manufacturing a product that turns out to be defective creates liability; covering up the defect and continuing to market and sell the product as safe can lead to criminal liability, class action lawsuits, and punitive damages.  Now how does that cost-benefit analysis look?

    If you own a Chevy Cobalt or a Saturn Ion, these cars are currently being recalled.  If you have been in an accident with these or any GM car from 2004 until the present, contact your Denver Auto Accident Attorney at Levine Law for information regarding whether your vehicle contained the defective ignition switch.