FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Beth Weaver 301-814-4088
Giselle Barry (Markey) 202-224-2742
Josh Zembik (Blumenthal) 202-224-6452
Karen Lightfoot (Waxman) 202-225-5735
Markey Joins Victims, Survivors of Faulty GM Ignition Switches Who Want Action & Answers
Congress Must Take Steps to Protect Innocent Motorists and Close Loopholes that Allow Concealed and Ignored Information about Vehicle Defects
Washington (April 1, 2014) – Families who have lost loved ones due to defective ignition switches in General Motors (GM) vehicles and a survivor of a defective Chevy Cobalt have travelled to the nation’s capital to join with Members of Congress and safety advocates to call for urgent reform to the vehicle recall process. They share their stories in the hope that swift action will prevent others from being harmed by known defects in vehicles.. Recent revelations about the lack of GM and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations and actions to correct the deadly ignition defect should lead to immediate reforms.
The families have traveled from throughout the country to attend the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing taking place today. Laura Christian of Harwood, MD, birth mother of Amber Rose, the first known fatality of the Chevy Cobalt defect, stated, “Our daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, wives and husbands are gone because they were a cost of doing business GM’s style. Corporate executives made a decision that ‘fighting’ the problem was cheaper and easier than ‘fixing’ the problem.”
Amber’s mother, Terry DiBattista of Conway, SC, called on the Justice Department to conduct a criminal investigation to determine if there is culpability by GM. She said, “It is clear that GM is only concerned with their bottom line, and not the safety of our loved ones.”
Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have introduced legislation, S. 2151, that would improve the Early Warning Reporting System to better inform the public about potentially deadly vehicle defects.
“This GM recall is a decade late and dozens of lives and injuries short. We need NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting system to actually provide early warnings, instead of just a rear view mirror look into what has already gone terribly wrong. I call upon automakers and the Transportation Department to support the legislation I introduced with Senator Blumenthal that would ensure more reporting and transparency about incidents involving fatalities so that these types of tragedies never happen again,” said Senator Markey.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, “GM owes answers to Americans about why it concealed these lethal car defects, and how it will correct its moral and legal culpability for resulting deaths and damages. Will the company do the right thing voluntarily – establish a fund to fully and fairly compensate innocent victims and loved ones – or do we need to compel them? Government watchdog agencies like NHTSA also owe us answers as to why they failed to protect drivers from repeatedly reported fatal crashes resulting from these faulty ignition switches. I’ll be seeking answers – and action – to assure that needless, senseless tragedies are prevented through stronger car safety laws. Such measures include the proposal offered by Senator Markey and myself to require better reporting by companies, stronger steps to detect defects, and fuller, faster disclosure of dangerous car defects.”
“These families’ stories are tragic and heartbreaking,” said Rep. Waxman. “It’s clear that GM knew of this dangerous defect for years and did not do nearly enough to fix it. We need to find out why GM made the decisions it did and change the law to ensure that it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Safety advocates urge swift reform. “The secrecy and coverup of the Cobalt defect at GM and NHTSA demand legislative reforms to assure the public, press and Congress are informed about future life-threatening safety problems. The public trust has been breached and GM has a big black eye. Only full transparency and criminal penalties under which business executives can go to jail for knowingly and willfully harming the public will change the decision making inside these powerful entities,” said Joan Claybrook, President Emeritus of Public Citizen and former NHTSA Administrator.
Samantha Denti of Toms River, NJ, who survived a few occasions when her Cobalt shutdown while she was driving added, “I cannot even begin to explain the fear and confusion that runs through your head in the moment when you have no control over a car. I cannot even comprehend the loss these families are going through. My hope is that the horror stops right now.”
Ken Rimer of Hammond, WI, whose step-daughter Natasha died on November 4, 2006, following a crash in October said, “Four years prior to producing the Cobalt, GM engineers were aware of a problem with that ignition switch design, which could cause it to turn into the accessory position with just the weight of a key chain or road bump. Rather than fixing the problem, they chose to keep producing the Cobalt, with the ill-fated ignition switch and selling it to an unsuspecting public.”
“It is tragic that these families and others have had to experience the trauma of vehicle accidents and the loss of loved ones; that many of these accidents appear to have been preventable is both heartbreaking and outrageous,” said Rep. DeGette. “People made more than a financial commitment when they purchased GM cars; they entrusted themselves and their loved ones to a safe, reliable vehicle. GM owed them as much. We have a responsibility to get to the bottom of what happened and how our vehicle safety system fell short, and then we must do the right thing and fix that system. Everyone who takes to the road deserves dedication to safety from our car companies our government.”
Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety added, “General Motors hid the problem for years, NHTSA ignored obvious warning signs and people needlessly died in crashes because of defective decision-making by both GM and the federal government.”