While General Motors was hoping that its ignition switch debacle was finally out of the general public’s attention, the recent discovery of emails sent in December to order ignition switch replacements raise serious questions about Mary Barra’s guidance after she became CEO.
Industry observers and analysts point out that even as incoming CEO was getting ready to assume command, the carmaker actively failed to alert the authorities that it had key information concerning its switch recall. As a reminder, any safety-related information must be reported to the NHTSA – the safety regulator – within five days. While in December Barra was not yet in office as the automaker’s chief executive officer, questions anew are asked about how much she really knew and how fast is she changing the company’s culture.
That’s simply because the newly revealed emails were not even mentioned in a 315-page report that was devised by former US Attorney Anton Valukas – called in as an outside observer and investigator. Back in June, when the brief was publicized, Barra considered it “extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling.” While the report showed that higher-tiered officials had (allegedly) no knowledge of the defect that was known to lower-level employees for more than a decade, the emails reveal the automaker had knowledge of the problem in December and it didn’t report to regulators until February. And considering the fact that you can’t order hundreds of thousands of replacement parts without top executives knowing about it, the move to delay reporting to the proper authorities becomes more and more akin to a cover-up attempt.