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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

G.M.’s Board Is Seen as Slow in Reacting to Safety Crisis

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DETROIT — After General Motors emerged from bankruptcy and a government bailout five years ago, the board of directors of the “new G.M.” was expected to keep a more watchful eye on a company that had gone seriously off track.
But on the issue of vehicle safety, the board until recently took a mostly hands-off approach, rarely even discussing the topic beyond periodic reviews of product quality with company executives, according to interviews with current and former board members, as well as G.M. officials with knowledge of the board’s actions.
In February, the initial recall of hundreds of thousands of cars with defective ignition switches was treated in such a routine manner at the board’s monthly meeting that the board’s chairman, Theodore M. Solso, said he had only a vague recollection of the details.
“I can’t remember the specifics,” Mr. Solso said in an interview. “It was a large recall. There were probably cost estimates.”
Since February, G.M. has been rocked by additional recalls totaling nearly 30 million vehicles, as well as by disclosures that some company officials had known about the defective switches for more than a decade. At least 13 deaths have been linked to the defect; the automaker is the subject of multiple investigations and has set aside nearly $4 billion to cover its costs. Although Mr. Solso said the directors were never as passive as others suggest, he acknowledged that since the first...
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