General Motors knew about faulty ignition switches that could cause vehicle engines to turn off, disabling air bags with deadly results. Federal government investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knew about this problem but as this report notes the NHTSA “twice passed on investigating” the faulty switches that “led to at least 13 deaths and more than 2.6 million recalled vehicles.” As one independent investigator put it, “the revelation that NHTSA had teed up an investigation and deep-sixed it is very troubling.”
The GM problems were apparent in 2007 but the NHTSA declined to investigate. Then in 2010, after another accident, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation said the data “did not show a trend” and backed off. The timing is certainly of interest. Recall that in 2009 the federal government bailed out General Motors to the tune of nearly $50 billion, losing at least $10 billion on the deal. With so much “invested” no surprise that government bureaucrats opted to go easy on Government Motors, as GM was accurately called. Contrast that leniency with government treatment of Toyota, a foreign automaker that did not need a bailout and did not take government money.
The government brought a criminal investigation against Toyota for defects such as sticking gas pedals and floor mats that trap the accelerator. The settlement allowed unlimited criminal and civil penalties and Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion, the largest penalty ever for an automaker and 35 times the maximum penalty the NHTSA can impose. FBI bosses railed against Toyota for putting sales over safety and profit over principle.
General Motors did the same thing but government bureaucrats twice declined to investigate. At least 13 people have died due to the defective switches and GM only began recalls in February. The NHTSA and the Justice Department are now reportedly looking into the matter but one doubts they will take draconian action as with Toyota. And a key problem should already be apparent to taxpayers and motorists alike. When government investigates Government Motors it lowers the bar on safety standards.
Meanwhile, for the possibilities of fakery involving automobile safety, see this article.