From an editorial Thursday in the Miami Herald:
For the car-buying public indeed, for all drivers the news from the latest General Motors scandal is deeply discouraging: Some companies remain loath to reveal mistakes even when it costs lives, and regulators too often are asleep at the wheel when it comes to public safety.
The disclosures surrounding GMs dereliction show that the best interests of consumers took a back seat to profits when company engineers became aware of a critical design flaw in ignition switches in some cars, mainly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions.
A failure could suddenly cut off engine power and deactivate air bags, but engineers determined that replacement would cost 90 cents a car and return only 10 cents to 15 cents in warranty-cost savings. So, shamefully, nothing was done.
Testifying before Congress this week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra failed to explain why it took GM nearly a decade to issue a recall. She blamed a series of bad decisions on the companys cost culture, a blanket condemnation of GMs legacy that neatly sidesteps individual accountability.
Neither members of Congress nor relatives of some of the 13 people killed in accidents blamed on faulty switches were mollified. Among the many questions she left unanswered is the baffling conundrum of why GM approved the use of a part in its switches that did not meet the companys own specifications.
Barra has has not committed to create a settlement fund. She should do so immediately, come clean with federal investigators, and complete an internal investigation that holds employees who put profits above human lives accountable for their actions.
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