The Taxpayer Bailout of GM, Helping Them Sell Unsafe Cars

by Jim Geraghty

President Obama, December 2013:

In exchange for rescuing and retooling GM and Chrysler with taxpayer dollars, we demanded responsibility and results.

The news he alluded to, but did not directly mention that day:

The taxpayer loss on the GM bailout is $10.5 billion. The Treasury department said it recovered $39 billion from selling its GM stake, and had put $49.5 billion of taxpayer money directly into the GM bailout.

The news today:

It was nearly five years ago that any doubts were laid to rest among engineers at General Motors about a dangerous and faulty ignition switch. At a meeting on May 15, 2009, they learned that data in the black boxes of Chevrolet Cobalts confirmed a potentially fatal defect existed in hundreds of thousands of cars.

But in the months and years that followed, as a trove of internal documents and studies mounted, G.M. told the families of accident victims and other customers that it did not have enough evidence of any defect in their cars, interviews, letters and legal documents show. Last month, G.M. recalled 1.6 million Cobalts and other small cars, saying that if the switch was bumped or weighed down it could shut off the engine’s power and disable air bags.

The Times reports:

Since the engineers’ meeting in May 2009, at least 23 fatal crashes have involved the recalled models, resulting in 26 deaths.

In November 2008, automaker executives came to Washington and “pleaded for emergency government aid.” At the end of May 2009 — after that meeting about the potentially fatal defect in the Cobalts! — the Obama administration finalized its aid package and terms to GM, committing “another $30 billion on top of the $19.4 billion it has already given GM to cover its losses and fund its operations, in exchange for a 60% equity stake in the new company after restructuring, as well as $8.8 billion in debt and preferred stock.”

Great news, taxpayers. You spent $10.5 billion to save a company that sold defective, unsafe cars, and lied about it for years.

Note this wrinkle:

When questioned last week at a news conference whether government ownership had any impact on the regulatory response to the ignition switch problems, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. responded: “I’m not sure that is necessarily true.”

Time to update that Obama 2012 slogan. “GM is alive, and 29 Cobalt drivers and passengers are dead.”

ABOVE: President Obama tapes his weekly address from a GM plant in
Detroit, October 14, 2011; there’s no word on whether the car behind him is one
of those with life-threatening defects that GM knew about but did not disclose.

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