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Senators Ramping Up Pressure on GM

Letter asks feds to issue Park-It-Now advisory.

by on Apr.28, 2014

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, above, and Sen. Edward Markey sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx asking him to issue a "park-it-now" order for the 2.6 million vehicles recalled by GM.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey continue to beat the drum to force General Motors to ask owners of the 2.6 million small cars it recalled to stop driving them immediately.

Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Markey (D-Mass.) jointly penned a letter asking Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to force the automaker to make history and issue a “park-it-now advisory.”

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“Every day that unrepaired vehicles remain on the road increases the risk of more injuries, deaths, and damage,” the pair wrote. (more…)

UAW Likely to Get Seat on GM Board of Directors

Union’s health care trust nominates UAW VP Ashton.

by on Apr.28, 2014

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton was nominated to the General Motors' Board of Directors.

Change is in the air at General Motors as the company’s board will likely have a top official from the United Auto Workers for the first time in history. If elected, it will be the second union-influenced nominee on the board.

UAW Vice President Joe Ashton has been nominated to fill a seat on the company’s board of directors, GM said in a proxy statement for its 2014 annual meeting of stockholders with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, also known as the VEBA, put Ashton on the ballot. He is scheduled to give up his post as head of the UAW’s GM Department in June following the UAW constitutional convention. If elected, Ashton will begin his board term in August. (more…)

Critics Demand Barra Come Clean about Ignition Decisions

Open letter calls for full disclosure by GM’s CEO.

by on Apr.17, 2014

Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Automotive Safety, penned a letter with Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, demanding GM CEO Mary Barra be transparent about the decision-making process that produced the faulty ignition switches in its small cars.

General Motors executives knew much more about the design flaw in the ignition switch installed in its small cars during the past decade much earlier than GM has officially acknowledged, according to two long-standing critics of the auto industry’s efforts at automotive safety.

In an open letter to GM CEO Mary Barra, Joan Claybrook, president emeritus of Public Citizen, and Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said it was time GM came clean about how and when the decisions were made to use the cheaper ignition switch and to replace them half a decade later without changing the part number or notifying federal regulators, which could have triggered a recall by GM.

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GM had no immediate comment on the Claybrook-Ditlow letter. (more…)

Senate Investigates Delphi’s Role in Ignition Switch Recall

CEO Rodney O’Neal gets a list of questions to answer.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal has been given a list of questions from four U.S. Senators asking about the supplier's role in producing the faulty ignition switches for GM.

Like it or not, General Motors’ bitter fight with its principal supplier, Delphi Corp., will be examined by a panel of U.S. Senators concerned about what role the supplier might have played in the faulty switches tied to a recall of more than 2.6 million GM vehicles and 13 deaths.

In a letter made public this week, four different senators have asked Delphi Chief Executive Rodney O’Neal on Tuesday a series of questions about the auto supplier’s production of ignition switches.

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The switches were made in a Delphi plant in Matamoros, Mexico, at a time when GM and Delphi were at loggerheads over the cost of components. GM spun off Delphi in 1999 and immediately demanded price downs from Delphi executives, who resented and resisted GM’s push for concessions. (more…)

Barra Defends GM’s Efforts to Fix Recalled Cars

CEO fires two top executives while pushing for change.

by on Apr.15, 2014

Embattled GM CEO Mary Barra defended the automaker's handling of the ignition switch recall in a speech today in New York.

General Motors’ Chief Executive Mary Barra today defended the automaker’s response in the wake of the recall of more than 2.6 million vehicles and her own handling of a safety-related problem that had festered inside GM for more than a decade.

Barra told a gathering an industry conference in New York City that GM has already taken several steps to replace ignition lock cylinders in the 2.6 million vehicles recalled to repair ignition switches. Parts are arriving at dealers, who have been enormously helpful in addressing the problem, she noted.

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“Our actions in recent weeks show we at GM are committed to living our values. I am committed to seeing it through,” Barra said. “All of us understand what is at stake here.” (more…)

GM Investing $449 Mil to Prepare for New Battery Cars, Updated Volt

New Cadillac sedan may also be part of project.

by on Apr.09, 2014

General Motors announced that it will invest $449 million to upgrade manufacturing processes at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly plants in preparation for the next generation of electric vehicles and advanced battery technologies.

Despite sluggish sales for its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, General Motors appears to be making an even bigger bet on the future of electric vehicles as it prepares to invest $449 million in a key battery-car assembly plant and the factory that produces the lithium-ion packs that will be used there.

Though GM did not provide specific details, the major investment plan is expected to help it upgrade the Volt and possibly add one or more additional battery-based vehicles at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. But the program is likely to include one or more non-electric model, such as a large sedan being developed by the Cadillac brand.

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“Today’s news will ensure that the next generation Chevy Volt continues and solidifies that position of leadership,” Gerald Johnson, GM’s vice president of North America manufacturing, said at an Automotive Press Association luncheon. “We want our customers to benefit from our investments in technology and to keep coming back to General Motors for their purchases.” (more…)

GM Faces Increasing Pressure to Park Recalled Cars

Maker could face challenge coming up with millions of loaners.

by on Apr.04, 2014

Despite GM CEO Mary Barra telling a Senate subcommittee she would let her own son drive one of the 2.5 million recalled vehicles, the company may be forced to ground all of them until they can be repaired.

General Motors is coming under increasing pressure to tell the millions of owners impacted by an ignition switch recall to park those vehicles until it can make the necessary repairs – and a federal judge could order such a step today.

But such move – which is being backed by plaintiffs’ attorneys, as well as several members of the Senate – could create a nightmare for the embattled automaker which would need to scramble to come up with as many as 2.5 million loaner vehicles so owners wouldn’t be left without transportation.

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GM is so far resisting such a move. While it already has offered to provide loaners for owners who didn’t want to drive any of the recalled cars, CEO Mary Barra told a Senate subcommittee this week that the vehicles are safe as long as there is nothing hanging from the ignition key. (more…)

GM-Delphi’s Tumultuous History Plays Role in Switch Problem

Cutting costs at expense of quality common impacted ignition.

by on Apr.03, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra told a Senate subcommittee yesterday that in the past that GM's focus was wrongly on cost instead of customers. The relationship between GM and Delphi was a prime example.

Lawyers and Congressmen looking for the answer to why General Motors decided not to fix the ignition switch that has now been implicated in at least 13 deaths may want to look more closely at the tangled history of GM’s spinoff of the Delphi Corp., the supplier of the defective switch.

In her congressional testimony, GM CEO Mary Barra said the company’s old culture emphasized cost cutting and cost containment over customer service and promised that was now changing.

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The critical Delphi-GM relationship was at epicenter of the cost-containment strategy pursued by GM’s senior management after the company ran into financial difficulties, which led to the removal of then-Chairman Robert Stempel. The physical separation of Delphi and GM was being carried out even as the switch was being designed for cars then on GM’s drawing board. (more…)

GM, Barra Thrashed by Senate Subcommittee

CEO says she’d let son drive unrepaired vehicle.

by on Apr.02, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra testified before a Senate subcommittee today. She agreed to come back after the company's investigation is complete.

Facing an aggressive group of U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill today, General Motors CEO Mary Barra clung to many of the responses she gave to a similar House subcommittee yesterday during testimony about the recall of more than 2.5 million vehicles for a faulty ignition switch.

Members of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance were in attack mode while questioning Barra accusing GM of engaging in a cover up of the faulty part, while others asked Barra how the company could ever be trusted again by the American public and if the vehicles shouldn’t be taken off the roads.

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Barra remained composed throughout the hearing, which lasted more than two hours. In her opening statement, Barra reiterated her stance that today’s GM is a different company than the one that more than a decade ago compromised customer safety when it allowed a below-spec part to be used in its ignition switches that are linked to at least 13 deaths and 31 crashes. (more…)

GM’s Barra Battles Tough History During Hearings

NHTSA’s Friedman likely to get rough treatment too.

by on Apr.01, 2014

GM CEO Mary Barra is testifying before a congressional committee this week. GM's history before such committees is not good.

After no fewer eight recalls covering more than 5 million vehicles since Jan. 1, General Motors will continue to generate more headlines this week as Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra testifies on Capitol Hill this week.

The latest recalls announced less only before Barra’s scheduled appearance in Washington D.C., cover more than 1.3 million vehicles, including Chevy Cobalts and HHRs, Pontiac G5 and Saturn Ion models with potentially defective ignition switches, covers the electric power steering systems on the vehicles

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Barra is in a tight spot. On the one hand, she clearly wants to cooperate with the Congressional probe but at the same time she is under pressure from the company’s own lawyers not to undermine GM’s defense in the myriad of lawsuit that are piling up against GM. (more…)