The script is familiar. General Motors’ top executive heading down to Washington to be grilled by Congress. As Joseph B. White of Market Watch reports, fifty years after the Corvair controversy that made Ralph Nader a household name:
Congressional investigators [are] looking into why General Motors Co. took nearly a decade to recall vehicles with faulty ignition switches …
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also in the dock since the agency:
… twice considered launching formal probes into whether GM cars had a defect that kept air bags from opening in crashes and that they twice concluded there wasn't enough evidence to act.
Ironic since it was the Corvair controversy and Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed that led to the creation of the NHTSA which now appears to have been around long enough to have become captive of the industry it was created to regulate, as happens to such bureaucracies. GM, in the coming days, can now point to the agency and argue, “They said we weren’t doing anything wrong.”
A third player, yet to be heard from, is the Obama administration. One wonders if it was aware of the ignition switch problems and the liability exposure facing the company that it bailed out. Or, if the Treasury was aware of the same issues when it unloaded its GM stock.