A set of previously confidential training documents from General Motors released this week, which warned engineers from using certain descriptive words when identifying product risks, reveal a dangerous culture within the company, U.S. officials say.
According to Reuters, the training documents were used during a technical learning conference in 2008. They give engineers words to use in place of other words which could be potentially more damning and paint the issue in a darker light. For example, the slides tell engineers to use “does not perform to design” instead of words like “defect” or “problem.”
GM is currently under investigation from multiple organizations, including the U.S. Justice Department, who are looking to find out why it took the automaker more than a decade to recall cars with certain ignition switches which it knew were faulty. The flaw has been linked to 13 deaths and resulted in the recall of more than 2.6 million small cars.
One of the documents included multiple “judgement words” and phrases which GM strongly advised engineers against using, such as “deathtrap,” “rolling sarcophagus,” “Hindenberg” and the somewhat humorous “Corvair-like.” The documents show how the company may have been nervous about engineer’s reports being publicized by the media in the wake of a recall.
“GM must rethink the corporate philosophy reflected in the documents we reviewed,” David Friedman, head of the NHTSA, said Friday.
A statement from GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company’s culture and this way of doing business was left behind when the Old GM departed, and cited it’s new safety program as evidence.
“Today’s GM encourages employees to discuss safety issues, which is reinforced through GM’s recently announced Speak Up for Safety Program,” he said.