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The headhunt at General Motors (GM-N) continues as investigators work track down those responsible for the sale of vehicles with faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes.While many have applauded the compassionate tone of CEO Mary Barra and Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer hired to administer GM’s victim compensation program, it is yet to be seen if the Detroit-based automotive giant will provide adequate restitution to victims and their families.
Feinberg’s plan will issue compensation regardless of negligence or even having been inside a GM vehicle at the time of accident, and even allows participation from those who have already negotiated with company. However, the burden of proof lies with the victim. A problem that long-time automotive safety advocate, U.S. presidential candidate, and author Ralph Nader says will keep many from the money they deserve.
Victims will have to document that the ignition switch specifically, not just the car stalling, was to blame for a crash.
“Most of these car claims are going to be three, four, five, eight years old and police reports are largely destroyed in our country after five years. It’s going to be very hard for a next of kin or injured victim now to reconstruct what happened in 2007. The vehicle as disappeared,” said Nader in an interview with BNN.
He doesn’t buy GM’s posturing about improved communication and a new corporate culture despite recent management shifts and dismissals, and even goes so far as to accuse the company of continuing to ignore safety concerns.
“There is also a problem with GM not recalling 1.8 million SUVs and light trucks with rusting break lines. They say it’s just a maintenance problem, but that didn’t wash with Subaru who are recalling very similar problem vehicles, 650,000 of them, because they think it’s a danger. I call on Mary Barra and GM to recall those vehicles and fix the before someone gets killed,” said Nader.
Nader came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of his book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of the safety record of American automobile manufacturers in general, and most famously the Chevrolet Corvair. He discovered 18 layers of bureaucracy between the CEO and the factory floor back then.
Nader advocates for an ombudsperson with sweeping access to all levels of the company to create an anonymous dialogue with concerned employees and offer rewards for those willing to blow the whistle.
“Most companies give monetary rewards to assembly line workers who figure out a way to make the assembly line work more efficiently to save money. This is in that tradition. You’d save GM a heck of a lot of headache if you catch these things before they hit the road,” said Nader.
The company expects to take a US$1.2-billion charge in the second quarter to cover the cost of recall-related repairs.