June 6, 2014
A culture of “incompetence and neglect” explains General Motors’ more than decade-long failure to recall millions of its small cars over a deadly ignition-switch defect, but there was no conspiracy to hide the problem, the company’s chief executive said Thursday.
As The Washington Post reports, Mary T. Barra said an internal probe showed that 15 employees were responsible for not vigorously tackling the problem. Those employees have been forced out of the company and five others have been disciplined.
The investigation — led by Anton R. Valukas, a former U.S. attorney — does not tie the company’s top executives to the defects, which it says have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 accidents.
The investigation depicts an ingrained corporate culture in which employees, rather than management, failed to take responsibility for the ignition-switch problem or to treat it with urgency, the Post reports. Information that could have shed light on the deadly design flaw remained buried in GM’s bureaucratic silos, even as vehicle accidents and driver deaths mounted.
Despite its exoneration of top management, the report describes the “GM nod,” where company officials in meetings would nod in agreement to a proposed course of action, and then leave and do nothing.
Barra, a GM lifer who became chief executive in January, has vowed to break that pattern, which reportedly contributed to the company’s 2009 bankruptcy and federal bailout. — Greg Beaubien