GM Engineers – One Now a NHTSA Executive – Were Told in July 2004

GM Engineers – One Now a NHTSA Executive – Were Told in July 2004

June, 2014

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Automotive News in an excellent article has unveiled key documents in GM & NHTSA Recall scandal.

GM Told in July 2004

“A General Motors supplier studying an “anomaly” in a crash test on a preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt urged the company in 2004 to take a closer look at the connection between the ignition system and airbag deployment — a link that eluded engineers and investigators at the company for years afterward.

“A July 1, 2004, report by Siemens VDO Automotive analyzed why frontal and side-impact airbag sensors simultaneously shut down less than two-tenths of a second after the moment of impact. It was written a little more than a month before GM began building the first Cobalts.

The report, released this week by a congressional committee investigating GM, examined both the results of the crash test and a series of laboratory simulations run by Siemens VDO to determine how the airbag sensors would respond to a loss of power. The cutoff of the sensors “appeared to be indicative of an ignition cycle,” Siemens engineer Douglas McConnell wrote.

“He concluded: “It is recommended that future severe crashes have ignition voltage and [in-vehicle network] messages monitored to determine the root cause of the … Power Off issue.”

“The document doesn’t identify the flimsy ignition switch as the culprit in the power loss. But it is significant because it shows that, before the first production Cobalt ever left the assembly plant, a GM-commissioned analysis had flagged a potential connection between a loss of power and airbags not deploying, and recommended that GM seek a root cause….”

GM Engineer Told in 2004 – Now in Charge at NHTSA

“Officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have said they did not realize that GM had designed its airbags to not deploy when the ignition was out of the “run” position….”

“The Siemens report shows that it was provided to five GM engineers, one of whom has worked for NHTSA since 2007.

“That engineer, Matthew Craig, identifies himself on LinkedIn as a former safety performance integration team leader at GM and now NHTSA’s chief of human injury research. Craig referred a request to discuss the report to a NHTSA spokeswoman, who declined comment….

“At the time the Siemens report was prepared, only one of the 13 deaths that GM now links to failed airbags caused by faulty ignition switches had occurred. The second of those fatal crashes happened three days later. Both crashes involved 2004 Saturn Ions, which used the same ignition switch as the Cobalt.

GM started production of the Cobalt in August 2004. The Siemens report wasn’t mentioned in Valukas’ report; neither were any of the five GM engineers shown as receiving it.”  See article and readers comments at

Why Has NHTSA Failed?

Readers may recall that I have pointed to the NHTSA GM connections and associated, at the least, appearance of conflicts of interests to be examined in this and other failures to protect Americans from crash injuries.  Dr. Matthew Craig has long held an important executive position in NHTSA.  The Human Injury Research Program, that Dr. Craig is head of at NHTSA, is charged with investigation of crash injuries to determine what could be done to prevent the tragic consequences of crashes.  See

And in addition to GM problems with airbags not deploying, that NHTSA missed for a decade, NHTSA is now dealing with airbags deploying explosively that they failed to protect us from for a decade.  
I have long been critical of his leadership of the program.  Disclosure: I had a role for years in the CIREN program at NHTSA which is now under Dr. Craig’s management.
Airbags Not Deploying and Deploying Explosively 
In addition to GM problems with airbags not deploying, that NHTSA missed for a decade, NHTSA is now dealing with airbags deploying explosively that they failed to investigate and protect us from for a decade.   An excellent article by AutoBlog reports:“Guddi Rathore was one of those customers. She was behind the wheel of her 2001 Honda Accord on Christmas Eve 2012 when she was involved in a minor fender bender near her home in Virginia that caused little damage to her car. Shards from an exploding airbag severed arteries in her neck, and she bled to death in front of her three young children. On May 27, 2009, Ashley Parham also died in a 2001 Accord, after her vehicle hit another in her high-school parking lot. When the airbag deployed, “shards of metal exploded from the airbag mechanism, and that’s what penetrated her neck and caused her fatal injury,” a police spokesperson told The Oklahoman. Looking at the long history of deadly problems associated with this particular defect, Kane said he’s dumbfounded that NHTSA let the problem linger for years before finally opening its preliminary evaluation this month. “The agency has fallen down on the job,” he said. “At what point does NHTSA jump in and triage this? How can this happen in 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and now 2013 – How can we get those recalls for the same defect across a broad swath of vehicles and they’re not interested in digging into it? I don’t remember anything quite as problematic as this that the agency has let go.”“NHTSA Finally Investigates “As Congress has probed the reasons behind GM’s decade-long delay in recalling cars with flimsy ignition switches, lawmakers also want to know why NHTSA missed early warning signs of a problem, and once a problem was apparent, delayed taking action.
Hope for Safety Solutions
With the House and Senate Committees looking into both NHTSA and GM as well as investigations by a Grand Jury, Justice Department, plaintiffs attorneys, and State Attorneys General, it appears there is a growing chance that safety reforms will finally be made for the better.
Hopefully President Obama will finally turn his attention to the more than 250,000 American crash deaths, nearly 1 million serious crash injuries, and nearly $3 Trillion in crash losses that he is on track to rack up on his 8 year watch.
If President Obama cares enough, he certainly has the responsibilities and powers to do more than he has.  He can clean up conflicts of interest at NHTSA as a start.  And for more he can do see my comments at


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