Report: GM Silenced Safety Defect Whistleblower

GM recently released the results of its internal investigation into the ignition switch defect linked with 13 deaths, and CEO Mary Barra fired 15 employees and apologized for a culture among GM employees that allowed this problem to go unreported for more than 10 years. A new report from Bloomberg Businessweek, though, suggests that the problem with GM’s culture runs even deeper, as a GM employee who did call out the problem early on says he was actively discouraged from speaking up.

This report focuses on GM engineer Courtland Kelley who was first the head of the company’s nationwide safety inspection program and then the quality manager for the Chevrolet Cavalier. Kelley told Bloomberg that he frequently found safety flaws in GM vehicles and reported them; however, his supervisors and colleagues seemed to him to prioritize avoiding expensive recalls. Kelley eventually sued GM as part of a whistle-blower law as related to a 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV recall, but GM denied the allegations, the case was dismissed, and Kelley was sent to work in a different position at GM.

This report uses Kelley as an example of how GM employees went beyond just inaction, and actually actively shut down a whistleblower who was attempting to draw attention to these types of safety defects. Bloomberg Businessweek asked GM about this specific situation, and GM replied with a statement saying, “We are going to reexamine Mr. Kelley’s employment claims as well as the safety concerns that he has, and that’s part of our redoubled effort to ensure customer safety.”

GM CEO Mary Barra is testifying in congress today about the company’s internal investigation by attorney Anton Valukas, and reiterated the steps the company has already taken to prevent situations like this in the future, like the new Speak Up for Safety Program and the appointment of Jeff Boyer as the new global vice president of safety for GM. Stay tuned to hear about any more developments in this ongoing GM ignition recall saga.

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