As millions more vehicles are being recalled by General Motors due to safety concerns, news is emerging that the auto maker demanded employees investigating the problems to stop using words such as “safety,” “chaotic,” and “problem” in their reports to bosses.
A list of 68 banned words has emerged indicating that GM was extremely worried that internal reports might be used as evidence of wrongdoing.
The banned words were followed by explanations for their exclusion. The list noted, for instance, that the word “defect” should be avoided because it “can be regarded as a legal admission.”
Even adjectives like “bad,” ”terrifying,” ”dangerous,” ”horrific,” and “evil” are on the list, the Associated Press reported. Overly descriptive words such as “deathtrap,” ”widow-maker,” and “Hindenburg” were also forbidden. Even words such as “always” and “never” were added to the list.
These banned words, though, added to GM’s culture of neglect, according to David Friedman, the acting chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ban list added to the reticence of engineers to make full and honest reports up the chain of command.
“The fact that GM took so long to report this defect says there was something very wrong with the company’s values,” Friedman said.
For its part, GM says that it has addressed the problem. “We encourage employees to be factual in their statements and will continue to work with NHTSA to improve our safety processes,” the car giant said in a statement.
But the problem isn’t going away easily. Early in March, an analysis of federal crash data found that 303 people died in accidents when their airbags failed to properly deploy in two of the models that GM has recalled.
Often derided as Government Motors, GM was a huge recipient of President Obama’s 2008 and 2009 bailout programs, tax dollars that some say “saved” the company. But in April, Reuters reported that U.S. taxpayers lost $11 billion from the government’s bailout of the auto maker.
Yet despite the loss, in December, GM chief Dan Akerson said the auto giant should not pay back the billions in lost taxpayer dollars because the bailout was “a positive for the U.S. economy.”
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