Exclusive: GM apologizes for sending recall notices to victims' families

Tue Jun 3, 2014 9:57pm EDT

1 of 2. Austin Sloat is pictured in this undated family photograph released to Reuters on May 30, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Pierce Family Photo/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) - General Motors on Tuesday apologized to families of accident victims who have been notified to bring in cars for replacement of defective ignition switches.

"We are deeply sorry to those families who received a recall notice," said GM spokesman Greg Martin in response to questions from Reuters.

GM has recalled 2.6 million of its most popular models to replace a defective switch that it has linked to 13 fatalities. Some families who lost loved ones in fatal crashes have complained that GM should not have sent them notices to bring in cars for repairs.

Terri DiBattista, who lost her 16-year-old daughter Amber Marie Rose in a 2005 Maryland accident involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, told Reuters she received two recall notices from GM last week asking her to bring in the vehicle to fix the ignition switch and power steering. The car was destroyed when Rose crashed into a tree.

The postcards were mailed to the family at its new address in South Carolina, where DiBattista said they moved to recover from the loss. Sent by a local GM dealer, the cards detailed three different recalls GM has issued involving the Cobalt in recent months.

DiBattista said GM could have identified the destroyed car through a simple check of Vehicle Identification Numbers.

Rose has been identified as one of the 13 victims GM links to the faulty switch.

Federal regulators now say they believe that GM’s death toll is an undercount. A Reuters analysis of federal crash data found at least 74 people have died in General Motors cars in accidents with some key similarities to those that GM has linked to the defective switches.

Martin said in an email that GM "continues to look into all claims we are made aware of in the recall population."

Some families say they are still seeking answers on whether fatal accidents could be linked to the switch.

Kim Pierce, who lost her 17-year-old son, Austin Sloat, in a crash in Maine involving a 2004 Saturn Ion, said she learned about GM's problems with a defective switch from news reports early this year. She then obtained a police accident report that showed the driver's side air bag did not deploy when he crashed at high speeds into a tree. Another teenage driver was charged in the accident, which involved racing.

Pierce has hired an attorney and contacted the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding the incident that led to her son's death.

Martin declined comment on whether GM was reviewing Sloat's case.

"Out of respect for their privacy, we do not discuss private conversations we may have had with family members or their legal representation," he said.

Pierce and other victims' families have asked the NHTSA, which regulates GM, to give them more information about the fatal accidents.

The NHTSA has said they are helping families to get answers from GM by asking the car maker to provide additional information on its vehicles.

(In paragraph 12, corrects name to "Pierce" from "Sloat.")

(Reporting by Marilyn Thompson and Paul Lienert; editing by Andrew Hay)

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Comments (3)
Kahnie wrote:
This is a company who has no class, is crass and needs either a change in attitude QUICKLY or be shunned in the market place like you would shun a person who has committed heinous acts. “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it. How crass and how stupid.

Jun 03, 2014 9:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AlZHeimer wrote:
GM is no different than the others. These mailings were an oversight, but if they didn’t send out the notifications, people would criticize them too. I can see how it would happen in today’s computerization of everything. That said, certain people at GM and Toyota SHOULD go to jail, but they won’t.

Trying to empathize with GM is impossible. Making and using a defective switch is not unreasonable. Hiding it after the problem was discovered is criminal. Changing the configuration of the switch secretly and without a change to the part number was clear evidence of intent. GM is not criminal but certain of its employees were AND are, imo.

Jun 03, 2014 11:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Travlnmn41 wrote:
GM is as competent as the Obama Administration.

Jun 04, 2014 10:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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