Despite the testimony of GM CEO Mary Barra that the company “acted without hesitation” to address the ignition switch problems that served as the basis for the latest recall of millions of vehicles, emails show that GM failed to address product problems, some of which Barra herself seemed fully aware of, at least as far back as 2011.
The company, often derided as “Government Motors” because of the billions of tax dollars infused into it by President Obama, has been under fire this month because of ignition switch problems linked to dozens of crashes and perhaps as many as 13 deaths. Early in April, CEO Barra testified before both houses of Congress over the matter.
Congress is specifically looking into why GM seems to have ignored this ignition switch issue for as long as a decade, and Barra has been criticized for not giving clear answers.
Now, a new round of documents have been released showing that Barra was aware of product problems. Emails released showed that she was made aware of steering problems in the Saturn Ion as far back as 2011 when she headed GM’s global product development division.
The emails that Barra participated in do not seem to connect her to the ignition switch failures, but they do show that senior executives had been made duly aware of product failures. This prevents senior management from claiming to have been kept out of the information loop, at least in some cases.
CNBC reports that GM officials have put two senior engineers on paid leave pending further investigation into whether or not they were the ones who decided not to take action on the ignition switch problems. The company did not release names, but “sources indicate they are Gary Altman, who previously served as program engineering manager for the Chevrolet Cobalt, and Ray DeGiorgio, a project engineer for both the Cobalt and Saturn Ion.”
This is another blow to a General Motors already beleaguered by the failing sales of the Chevy Volt. The hybrid has only sold 53,000 units in the three years that it has been in existence, despite the massive sales job initiated by President Obama, who claimed he was going to put one million hybrid cars on the road by 2015.
GM stock has fallen below $32 a share for the first time in ten months due to the recall controversy and Obama’s ongoing sluggish economy.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.