GM, others need to learn that safety comes before profits | Editorial

It is inexcusable that General Motors withheld critical safety information from the public for more than a decade about a deadly ignition-switch problem.

During that time, at least a dozen people died in crashes in which the faulty switches moved out of the run position, disabling power steering and brakes. Air bags also didn’t inflate.

GM’s new CEO Mary T. Barra has apologized several times to families of those injured or killed in crashes. That’s nice — but not enough.

What’s called for is a harsh and significant financial penalty not only to punish GM, but also to send a message to all manufacturers that problems and mistakes can’t be hidden for the sake of preserving their public image.

That’s already happened in a similar case involving Toyota. The company last week said it will pay $1.2 billion to avoid criminal prosecution for hiding information in a car recall case. In the case, Toyota recalled some models when it discovered floor mats could trap gas pedals and make cars accelerate wildly. However, according to court records, the company recalled some models for the floor mats while knowing that others had the same problem. The company also concealed news about sticky gas pedals that could cause unwanted acceleration.

In GM’s case, the amount of the Toyota settlement should be the starting point for any financial settlement.

If the Toyota settlement is an eye-opener to manufacturers, what happens to GM should serve as a two-by-four to the side of the head. Everyone company wants to have a reputation for quality. But it can’t happen at the cost of killing some customers.

– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter

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