CAS Letter to GM Investigator Anton Valukas re: Report Omissions

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

June 17, 2014
Anton R. Valukas Jenner & Block
353 N. Clark Street Chicago, IL 60654-3456
Dear Mr. Valukas:
Your report to GM’s Board of Directors on Ignition Switch Recalls [hereinafter “Valukas Report”] avoided and missed crucial facts and issues in constructing what amounts to a corporate defense against criminal charges. The report repeatedly omitted materials that show GM at its highest levels of management considered stalling to be a safety defect. The report does not consider the handling of Early Warning Reporting (EWR) death and injury reports at GM which revealed the ignition switch deaths and injuries as early as 2004. The report contains selected materials from GM’s Product Investigations employees that omit key document related to stalling alone as a safety defect. The report also selectively cites and misstates materials on stalling within the auto industry.
Early Warning Reporting (EWR): The Report failed to investigate the biggest body of evidence available on Ignition Switch stating on p. 279: “We do not understand that GM is alleged to have violated its obligation to submit these EWRs, and such routine reporting is not the focus of this investigation.” Yet the 2,039 Death and Injury Reports filed under EWR by GM with NHTSA on the recalled vehicles are the single biggest repository of information on real world ignition switch related, deaths, injuries and crashes at GM. Yet the Report doesn’t address these files, who receives them at GM, how they are analyzed and sent to NHTSA.
From 2004 to 2007, GM sent NHTSA 19 summary EWR death reports on components likely to be associated with ignition switch failure. NHTSA sent a Death Inquiry to GM for 17 out of 19 of these summary reports. GM responded by sending the underlying records behind the EWR death
report. What was the process for retrieving these documents and sending them to NHTSA? We know from NHTSA files that NHTSA sent the Death Inquiries to Gay Kent who sent the responsive documents back to NHTSA. As the head of Product Investigations, Gay Kent was a key player in Ignition Switch. The Valukas report cited 8 different documents and communications to or from Gay Kent plus referenced her actions numerous times through the report. We could not find any reference to her role in EWR and what insights she would have gotten from the EWR reports. In addition, the Report does not reference her role in the recall discussed above even though she submitted the Part 573 report.
Read the full CAS Letter to GM Investigator Anton Valukas re: Report Omissions.