(Hartford, CT) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal released the following statement today after the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that General Motors (GM) agreed to pay a $35 million civil penalty and to take steps to reform its oversight process as a result of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) investigation into the automaker’s failure to report safety defects.
“This fine may be the maximum allowable, but it is regrettably a pittance for GM and a powerful reminder of the need for legislative reform. The appropriate penalty would be many multiples of this number in light of the devastating injuries, death and damage caused by GM’s seriously defective cars. I will advocate reforms to increase these penalties so violations of moral and legal responsibilities will be met by appropriate sanctions – unfortunately legally impossible in this case. This penalty shows that the federal agency acted as forcefully as possible, but its hands were tied. The victims deserve stronger justice, and GM deserves harsher penalties.
“Changes to GM’s internal process of handling recall issues are vital in preventing future tragedies of this nature. This preliminary step, however, should not distract from the urgent needs that remain. GM must warn drivers of recalled vehicles to stop driving them until they can be repaired – regardless of how much weight is on the ignition key. It must provide sufficient repair parts to dealers, and release accurate information about how many parts have been shipped, as soon as possible. GM must also compensate injured drivers and victims’ families who were barred from meaningful recovery from GM’s concealment of these defects during its 2009 bankruptcy filing. As federal authorities’ investigation into the timeline of GM’s handling of this defect continues, I hope that continued scrutiny will keep the company’s focus on these obligations.”