• Jun 18, 2014

"We're hearing there may be up to 100 deaths linked to this." – Rep. Diana DeGette

A member of the US House of Representatives said Wednesday there may be as many as 100 deaths linked to General Motors' decade-long failure to recall millions of defective cars.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) referenced the figure during her questioning of GM CEO Mary Barra and former US Attorney Anton Valukas in a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has been probing the ignition-switch defect.

"We're hearing there may be up to 100 deaths linked to this," DeGette said during her remarks.

The number of deaths tied to the faulty ignition switches has been an elusive figure thus far amid several investigations. General Motors has acknowledged at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes that occurred when the switches inadvertently moved out of the "run" position and turned off engines, airbags and other electrical systems, like power steering.

But several families of people who died in accidents are angry that GM has not counted their family members as part of its number, and an earlier Reuters analysis found that as many as 74 people may have died in accidents related to the problem.
DeGette did not elaborate on her comments in her official remarks, but a spokesperson from her office said "safety advocates and others continue to look at crashes that contributed to fatalities beyond the 13 GM has acknowledged. ... While no counts are settled yet, we have heard numbers like the 100 my boss referenced from people who are closely tracking this."

Barra did not detail how GM might determine the eligibility requirements for the compensation fund.

Although the company knew about the defective switches for more than a decade, GM didn't recall any of the Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions or Pontiac G5s affected until February of this year. So far, GM has recalled 2.6 million cars related to that problem.

More broadly, General Motors has had to revamp the way it treats safety concerns within the company. In the wake of the fiasco, General Motors has issued 44 separate recalls in 2014 that cover more than 20 million vehicles worldwide – more than the number sold by GM the past five years combined.

In her testimony, Barra affirmed GM's 13 acknowledged deaths. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) noted there were pictures of 15 victims in the back of the gallery and asked her to explain the discrepancy. Barra instead relayed details of a victim-compensation program that will be independently administered by Kenneth Feinberg, but as in previous appearances, the details of which remained unclear Wednesday.

Sidestepping a question about the deaths not acknowledged by GM, Barra said that all potential victims were "eligible to apply" for funds from the compensation fund, but she did not detail how GM might determine the eligibility requirements. She said that was a question that Feinberg would answer by the end of the month, and that he would begin accepting claims by August 1.

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia) asked Barra, if she truly wants to make sure all victims are fairly compensated, why GM's lawyers are continuing to seek shield from liability provided by the company's 2009 bankruptcy filing.

"You feel it's the right thing for GM to continue to seek the shield of bankruptcy and not deal with these cases? And have Feinberg be the only solution," Griffith said. Barra noted that participation in Feinberg's program is voluntary and that, for those who don't participate, "people have the same rights they do today," she said.

In perhaps the most heated exchange of the testimony, Griffith responded, "But you're trying to block those rights, by not instructing your lawyers to back off. ... If GM truly wants to compensate victims fully and fairly, stop asking the bankruptcy court for protection."

"If GM truly wants to compensate victims fully and fairly, stop asking the bankruptcy court for protection." – Rep. Morgan Griffith

Former US Attorney Anton Valukas, who authored the 325-page internal report on the GM response to the ignition-switch problem, sat beside Barra at the witness table and also took questions from lawmakers Wednesday. Among the biggest revelations: He said that Delphi, the supplier that made the ignition switches for GM, had been largely unresponsive to his requests for information. In multiple instances, he said Delphi either could not locate documents he asked for or did not produce them. In another instance, he said that Delphi did not grant him access to employees he wanted to interview.

In regard to the defective ignition switch, Valukas testified that "Delphi certainly knew this part was being approved."

Delphi has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Released two weeks ago, Valukas' internal report found no evidence of a company-wide cover-up and largely absolved GM's senior leadership of blame in the delayed ignition-switch recall. That explanation hasn't sat well with safety advocates who have called it a whitewash, and it didn't sit well with several skeptical members of the Congressional committee.

"In many ways, the facts surrounding what finally resulted in the GM recall are far more troubling," Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) said.

Noting that the company had known about the defective switches for at least a decade, met with members of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2007 to discuss problems with Chevy Cobalts and then learned in a deposition in April 2013 that the ignition switch had been replaced by an engineer without changing a part number, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) said, "that smacks of a big cover-up to me."


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  • 38 Comments
      tracey0970
      • 6 Months Ago
      I own a 2003 Saturn Ion in great shape and low mileage. I had this ignition switch fixed years ago because my car had shut down. Now in this last year my car has shut down 2 times with the replacement switch from the past when driving on the highway on a long distance trip.. I have been on the phone for hours with GM headqtrs in the US in which they transfer me to the Phillipines and also my local dealership. I'm requesting a rental for the 1st week in July to travel out of state and all I am getting is a run around and denial of who has approved what and who is paying or who isnt paying who hasnt approved this car rental for a week. I will be driving my car I guess on my trip and lets just hope my car doesn't shut down at the wrong time on the wrong road. THANKS GM.
      churchmotor
      • 6 Months Ago
      Ah yes, GM is paying the Ghost Bloggers to make the poor people that bought the GM vehicles out to be the criminals. This reeks of Hillary Clinton's war on women where she would defend rapist, and make the poor girl that was raped into the criminal. Disgusting.
      Revis Goodworth
      • 6 Months Ago
      It is evident that witch Mara is only the CEO for the sole purpose of eliciting an easier treatment of Total Recall Motors. If she were a man (perish the thought with that hair) - the CEO would have been reamed even more - she sure didn't get promoted because she's competent or knowledgeable - some of her answers were gobsmackingly laughable.
      Eggmania
      • 6 Months Ago
      hey GM its really obvious you have your internet trolls downvoting anything disparaging about your company. that's only making people hate you more. its not changing public perception of your company. how can you determine the ignition switch played only X% factor in a crash. if it played ANY factor at all that is unacceptable.
        scott3
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Eggmania
        This is simple. The switch in these cases was a catalyst that started a chain of events that lead to a demise. Other mitigating factors like being under the influence of a drug or alcohol would impair thinking of how to deal with it. Add to that if the person was not belted in the odds are much greater that death or serious injury would occur since it is simple physics here. Speed in its self was also a major factor as the kid that was doing 93 MPH and hit the tree hit so hard that his legs had to be removed as they were impaled through the floor of the car. An air bag at this speed with no belt would have been of little help. Same for the one passenger in the back seat that was unbelted. Did anyone expect the front bag to save her as she sailed over the seat past her friends? The switch is where much of this sadness started but the outcome was often determined by the actions or inactions of the driver or passenger. Did you bother to read up that one of the deaths was a gentleman that was seen slumped over the wheel before he hit anything. They believe in this case he was having a epileptic seizure. Now did the ignition fail or did he bump it or was it even turned off in a attempt to stop the car? No one can tell. Egg you might want to read up all the facts and not just the ones that fit your ideas of what you want to believe. Like I said I believe GM should be held responsible for the replacement of this part. No question there. I also believe if the ignition was fully responsible for any death or injury that the driver or passenger did not contribute too then they should pay. Simple you are belted in, sober and not 3 times the speed limit then your family is compensated well. If you are drunk, speeding not belted in then sorry buy contributed to your own demise. GM may be responsible for a small settlement but nothing crazy as if some of these folks had done as they should odds are they would have survived. This is not about sticking up for GM or sticking up for the victims. This is about discovering all the information and facts that tell the whole story. It is also about everyone being responsible for their action no matter if it is GM or the person who put them selves in more peril than GM did. If you read up on these accidents and the crash reports the media and others have left out much. Like GM or not we should look for true responsibility here and hold everyone responsible for their actions. It is GM this time but next time the Company may be Toyota again, Honda, Hyundai, Ford or who ever you favor. GM is the convenient target this time but once this is old news as this is becoming they will find another target. The other automakers know this and that is why they all are doing massive recalls now. The media is no longer unbiased and if it bleeds it leads in the headlines. So egg you can deflect all you like but the truth is still there and it will prove you wrong if you live by your predigests thinking.
          Required Reading
          • 6 Months Ago
          @scott3
          "This is simple" says the guy who goes on to write at least 1175 words explaining the simplicity and defending a company that should have been left to the existing bankruptcy laws we have established for all other business. GM should have died the quick, honorable death rather than this drawn out moaning and crying pitiful display that is happening now. It really is unbecoming.
          scott3
          • 6 Months Ago
          @scott3
          Required Reading Such insight, You should take after your name and do a little research. But I guess remaining a auto bigot is much easier.
      skoobey
      • 6 Months Ago
      So let me put this into perspective. Government bailed out GM, pretended that vehicles were safe, then reconsidered after it got the money back. And who cares if there were a few deaths here and there?
      lne937s
      • 6 Months Ago
      Wonder if any of the other car makers are going to introduce special incentive programs to take advantage of this recall the way GM did with Toyota http://stylemagazine.com/news/2010/jan/28/gm-takes-advantage-of-toyota-recall-with/ And why hasn't John Dingell attacked Mary Barra yet? http://www.annarbor.com/business-review/john-dingell-presses-toyota-executive-in-congressional-hearing-on-recalls/ I don't feel bad for GM.
        lne937s
        • 6 Months Ago
        @lne937s
        To clarify, GM helped create the current climate of politicized and exploited recalls that is now not working in their favor. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/dingells-and-gm-illustrate-limits-of-congressional-conflict-of-interest-rules/2012/01/28/gIQAEaTWYQ_story.html
      churchmotor
      • 6 Months Ago
      What a crying shame the USA taxpayers were robbed by Barry Soetoro just so he could save his UAW pals and continue their funding of the Democrat socialist. Keeps scum like yonomo200 and normc32 in their jobs banks.
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @churchmotor
        This is why I don't go to church. It rots your brain and makes you vote Republican.
        J
        • 6 Months Ago
        @churchmotor
        Hey churchlady, don't drive angry because you were dumb enough to buy a vehicle from Government Motors...
      Michael Scoffield
      • 6 Months Ago
      I remember going through driving school in a manual Chevy Aveo here in Europe. I was just at my first driving lessons and going through the crowded city streets and at a tight turn forgot to shift into second from third and the car stalled(of course it was my fault). It too lost power steering and brakes, yet, among all those cars I managed to safely pull to the side, start the car again and keep going. The driving instructor informed that I could have just pressed the clutch, restarted the engine and continued going. So what's the big deal? If it's an auto can't you just put it in neutral, restart the engine and keep going. Seriously, why are people making such a big deal out of this?
        m_2012
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Michael Scoffield
        People are losing power steering and brakes in cars that were not designed to be operated without them. Also, it shuts off safety systems like the airbags. Some of these accidents were going to happen anyways, at least the airbags could have worked.
          Michael Scoffield
          • 6 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          Oh, I forgot about the airbags. Still I don't see why this would necessarily cause a crash. You can restart a stalled car in 10 seconds.
      evilleo22
      • 6 Months Ago
      oh give it an effing rest already.. GM blows, throw the book at them and be done with it
        evilleo22
        • 6 Months Ago
        @evilleo22
        oh and by the way before anyone complains, I own several GMs. the newest being a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport convertible.. but Im still bitter about Pontiac and Oldsmobile.
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