William McAleer, former head of General Motors’ corporate quality safety audit, warned the company of obvious safety issues with its new vehicles in a letter in 2002, more than 11 years before it recalled millions of its vehicles for faulty ignition switches.
According to a Reuters report, McAleer told the company that it needed to “stop the continued shipment of unsafe vehicles” and “recall suspect vehicles that were already in customers’ hands,” in the letter, which was sent to GM’s directors and members of its top management.
McAleer was formerly the head of GM’s quality safety audit, responsible for quality checks on new cars shipped in North America. In the letter, he said his team consistently found safety problems with the automaker’s vehicles and suggested it stop the shipment of unsafe cars, in addition to launching recalls and revising its quality control processes. He was transferred out of his position in 1998, but later attempted to sue GM four times, unsuccessfully.
A copy of McAleer’s letter was sent to each of GM’s 12 directors at the time, which included then CEO Rick Wagoner and Chairman John Smith. In addition to suggesting GM take steps towards improving vehicle safety, it accused quality executive Tom LaSorda of trying to stop McAleer from contacting GM’s upper management.
LaSorda had launched a new safety process which was meant to document life-threatening defects in the company’s products, but McAleer said this was an inadequate response to the problems and allowed the safety defects to continue.
When asked, GM spokesman Jim Cain said he couldn’t address the events of 12 years ago, but added that the company will now take safety concerns seriously.
“We are conducting what we believe is the most exhaustive and comprehensive safety review in the history of the company, and that includes looking at vehicles that were built in the late 1990s. And if we find anything that is a safety issue, we will act,” he told Reuters.
Cain also said they have no records which show the McAleer letter was ever discussed among GM’s board. McAleer recently sent copies of the letter to members of Congress, and sent receipts to Reuters from the postal service which indicates the letter was delivered to GM headquarters.
McAleer isn’t the first GM quality inspector to try and sue GM for its negligence in providing safe cars to consumers. Colleague of McAleer, Courtland Kelley, unsuccessfully sued GM after he found the company delayed to address obvious issues in its vehicles. Kelley lost the suit, and still works with GM today.