Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On eve of congressional hearings, GM announces more recalls.

The ongoing saga of the GM recalls continued to draw heavy media attention in the latest news cycle, including spots on all three nightly news programs. The focus of most pieces was divided between the news of the latest round of recalls and this week’s congressional hearings, including new information released by the House on the issue.
        ABC World News (3/31, lead story, 2:20, Sawyer, 7.43M) reported that GM is recalling an addition 1.3 million car, “this time, from power steering suddenly cutting out, right on the heels of that problem with the ignition and the air bags.” The new recall come a day before GM CEO Mary Barra is expected to face “tough questions” in congressional hearings. ABC (Jarvis) calls the new recall a “stunning revelation.” GM has now recalled 2.6 million cars “because their ignition switches could turn off, shutting down the car’s power and safety systems, including the air bag.” In prepared testimony released by a House committee, Barra “will say she is deeply sorry, reiterating her promise to conduct a thorough investigation and saying today’s GM will do the right thing.”
        NBC Nightly News (3/31, story 6, 1:20, Williams, 7.86M) reported that GM announced on Monday “it is expanding yet again the number of cars it is recalling because of potentially serious safety issues.” NBC (Costello) adds that GM is saying that the “newly expanded list of recalled vehicles now focuses on a power steering issue, the recalls include the Chevy Malibu and Malibu Max,” covering model years 2004 to 2009, along with five other GM models.
        The CBS Evening News (3/31, lead story, 3:10, Pelley, 5.58M) says that for GM, “bad news is turning into a pileup” with the announcement of another round of recalls. Looking at the Cobalt ignition problems, CBS (Glor) says that the “first recall by GM didn’t come until February of this year, 13 years after the problem was discovered.”
        The Detroit News (4/1, Shepardson, Burden, 466K) reports that GM “has now recalled more than 6.3 million vehicles this year — compared with about 800,000 in the United States last year — as it seeks to more aggressively respond to safety issues.” GM spokesman Alan Adler “said the automaker has reports of some crashes and injuries related to the problem, but no deaths.”
        The Wall Street Journal (4/1, Bennett, Hughes, Subscription Publication, 4.25M) reports that in addition to the new announcement about the recall, GM also said it will take a Q1 charge of $750 million, more than twice what it initially forecast. Turning to Barra’s prepared remarks, the Journal reports she will say, “Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that [small car] program, but I can tell you that we will find out.” On the whole, the Journal says that her statement provides little insight into the decisions that resulted in the delayed recall.
        NHTSA’s Friedman blames GM for recall failings. The New York Times (4/1, Wald, Subscription Publication, 5.41M) reports that in written testimony filed in advance, David Friedman, acting administrator of the NHTSA, “will seek to cast blame on General Motors when he testifies on Tuesday before a House subcommittee looking into the Chevrolet Cobalt ignition problem.” Friedman will say that GM “had critical information that would have helped identify this defect.” Friedman is expected to testify before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations on Tuesday, along with Barra.

        USA Today (4/1, Healey, 5.82M) reports on key questions Barra is facing, such as how the situation could have developed. On the question of whether Barra will “go to jail,” USA Today says, “No, but others might. She appears not to have known anything about the problem until shortly before the February recall announcement,” while “her position atop a limited liability corporation should insulate her.” However, if the “2006 change in switch design was done to fix a known safety problem, and federal safety officials weren’t told, then people involved in that could have broken federal law.” 

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