New allegations made in GM recall investigation
Allegations of a cover-up and calls for criminal charges are the latest fallout following General Motors' massive recall.
At a hearing Wednesday, senators told GM CEO Mary Barra the company should tell owners to stop driving all of the 2.6 million cars being recalled for a faulty ignition switch that is linked to 13 deaths. GM is currently telling owners that the cars are safe to drive, as long as the car key and nothing else is on the key chain.
Several senators implied that someone within the company intentionally tried to replace the switch without telling anyone of the danger and that it could be a criminal violation.
GM says it's given loaner cars to 13,000 owners who believe their cars aren't save to drive. According to the automaker's math, about 99 percent of the people driving the recalled cars passed up the offer to drive a rental car instead. Laura Riley is confident her seven-year-old Saturn is safe.
"I've never had a problem with this car at all. I've never had a problem with my Saturn, so..." Riley said.
She says she'll drive the car while GM works on getting it fixed.
"You know, every automaker has recalls going on at one time or another," Riley said.
But GM's recall of 2.5 million Saturn, Chevy and Pontiac cars is bigger and more concerning than other recalls. The company is struggling to explain why company insiders apparently know about the faulty ignition switches a decade ago, but GM did nothing about them until now.
Thirty-one accidents and 13 deaths are tied to malfunctioning switches that abruptly turned off the car's engines, power steering, power brakes and protective airbag systems.
"They have their work cut out for them, getting the faith of consumers back," said Kyle Anderson at the IU Kelley School of Business.
Anderson is an economist focused on the auto industry.
"I don't think the immediate response to this is to immediately slash prices on cars," he insisted. "That's not what the concern is. The concern is safety."
Barra has already begun what Anderson calls "the apology tour," testifying to senators, she's accepted responsibility for the automaker and promised changes. Instead of deep discounts, car shoppers should expect a barrage of advertisements aimed at making amends and restoring faith in the automaker.
GM discontinued manufacturing Laura Riley's trusted Saturn years ago.
"I don't know if my next car will be a GM or not. The jury is still out on that one," she said.
The second biggest automaker may have to earn back consumers' trust, before earning their business. The process will begin with fixing the existing problems. Indianapolis dealers expect to have new replacement ignition switches in hand by the end of next week.