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Handling of GM Recall Spurs Changes in Reporting Bill

Senators want more information available sooner.

by on Mar.26, 2014

Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Hold to force General Motors to set up an fund to compensate victims.

The controversy surrounding the handling of General Motors’ recall of 1.6 million vehicles due faulty ignition switches is prompting lawmakers to propose changes to how problems are reported.

Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced legislation revising the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Early Warning System.

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The bill mandates automakers to provide regulators with more information regarding fatal crashes and for the U.S. government to make that information more easily accessible to the public.

Currently, automakers are required to submit the information with just the barest of details, such as the date, location, vehicle identification number and cause for the crash causing the death. The proposed bill forces automakers to submit accident reports and other documentation informing them of any fatality. NHTSA would be required to make many of those documents public and available in “a searchable, user-friendly format.”

“A massive information breakdown at NHTSA has led to deadly vehicle breakdowns on our roads,” said Markey, who is a member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, according to USA Today. The subcommittee is expected to hold a hearing on the recall in early April. GM CEO Mary Barra is expected to testify at the hearings.

Blumenthal also asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to force GM to set up a victims’ fund to compensate people for damages to related to any crashes that came as a result of the faulty switches. He also believes that GM should not be shielded from liability: a protection it received in its 2009 bankruptcy.

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“I believe the federal government has a moral, if not legal, obligation to take all necessary steps to protect innocent consumers,” Blumenthal wrote Holder, adding his belief that the company engaged in “deliberate concealment” of the condition involving the vehicles, according to USA Today, and saying that “constituted a fraud on the bankruptcy court that approved its reorganization.”

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He’s not alone in the proposing the idea, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, told that GM should be forced to set up a $1 billion fund in a trust. Setting it up as a trust would allow the fund to grow over time as not all of the funds would be used at once. He added that if the fund were set up, he’d start pressuring other makers to set up similar funds.

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GM has refrained from commenting on the issue beyond that it is working to correct the process that allowed this to occur so that it never happens again. GM linked the problem to 31 crashes and 12 deaths; however, others have suggested the totals are much higher.

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