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GM Employee Alleges he was Discouraged From Reporting Safety Issues

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 6/18/2014 Erick Ayapana

It was another challenging day for General Motors and its CEO Mary Barra. Today marks the second time Barra has had to address the U.S. Congress since GM’s massive recall involving faulty ignition switches in 2.6 million cars. It also coincides with a scathing investigative report by Bloomberg that focuses on a GM employee and his struggles to raise safety issues within his company.

The recall, which GM has attributed to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes, prompted Barra to launch an internal investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. He released his findings earlier this month in a document dubbed the “Valukas Report.” Barra has described the report as “deeply troubling,” bringing to light a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” from GM employees involved with the ignition switch crisis. GM CEO Mary Barra Provides Recall Update© Provided by MotorTrend GM CEO Mary Barra Provides Recall Update

Bloomberg ’s report is just as troubling.

Titled “GM Recalls: How General Motors Silenced a Whistle-Blower,” the report centers on Courtland Kelley, a GM employee for over 30 years. It didn’t take long for Kelley to find troubling safety issues in a number of GM vehicles, including a fuel link leak in Chevrolet Trailblazer SUVs he discovered in 2001 while inspecting cars about to ship to dealerships. Kelley made numerous efforts to raise concern that eventually led GM to issue a recall, but not after he encountered shocking amounts of resistance and apathy from his managers.

Concerned about the way GM handled safety issues with the Trailblazer and other vehicles, Kelley turned to the authorities and sued GM for violation of Michigan’s whistle-blower law. After a number of setbacks, the case was dismissed. The report also outlines a number of Kelley’s superiors who essentially warned him that his career would stall if he continued escalating safety issues within GM. Chevrolet Trailblazer© Provided by MotorTrend Chevrolet Trailblazer

While working as a brand quality manager in 2002 for the Chevrolet Cavalier, Kelley continued blowing the whistle on the Trailblazer. He went through another failed attempt to take GM to court. In 2004 Kelley was taken off his duties related to the Cavalier and was reassigned to what’s described as GM “purgatory,” a position with little responsibility and chance for advancement. The following year, GM replaced the Cavalier with the Cobalt, just one of many models fitted with the faulty and fatal switch.

Barra began her testimony in Congress today by summarizing all the talking points she made during her town hall-style meeting with employees and the press earlier this month in Detroit. She said her company would follow through with all of Valukas’ recommendations and mentioned the numerous steps GM has already taken to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again. She also said GM is still working out the details on the compensation program for victims and that the company would begin processing claims by August 1. 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe Rear Side View© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe Rear Side View

She also had to answer a barrage of questions from members of Congress including Tim Murphy (Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce) who referenced the Bloomberg report and asked if Kelley was still with the company. Barra confirmed that he is still employed and that his account is being investigated under GM’s “Speak Up For Safety” program.

“It sounds like he decided not to speak up,” Murphy said.

“Well, he is now, and we’re taking it very seriously,” Barra replied.

Source: Bloomberg 1, 2, GM

2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS© Provided by MotorTrend 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt Coupe SS

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