Bloomberg BNA’s Corporate Law & Accountability Report is available on the Corporate Law Resource Center. This news service keeps corporate practitioners informed of legal developments of...
By David Welch
Nov. 24 — Amid the worst safety-defect crisis in its history, General Motors Co. executives and staff have taken to social media to find customer complaints and identify quality issues long before they become a crisis.
GM, which faces lawsuits for dragging its feet before recalling a faulty ignition switch that's connected to at least 35 deaths, is now mining every source of information to head off another crisis, President Dan Ammann told Bloomberg News.
The company has social media managers, customer service staff and even executives at the highest rank trying to find early warning signs from its vehicle owners, he said.
Ammann and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra even call some customers to solicit their feedback.
That's a change for Detroit-based GM, whose engineers tried to avoid issuing a safety recall for the ignition switch even as evidence mounted over several years that its small cars had a problem, court and company documents show.
GM has encouraged employees to alert top management if they see possible recalls.
GM received numerous complaints about the switch during the past decade and didn't begin the recall, which has since expanded to 2.59 million cars, until February. Meanwhile, customers kept driving cars with an ignition that could slip out of the “run” position while in use.
“We have to identify issues before they become a problem,” Ammann said at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. “We will get past this, but we can't forget the most important thing we've learned.”
The company is using more than just official complaints registered by consumers with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which handles defect investigations and recalls, to search for trouble
The biggest U.S. automaker has people monitoring social media 24 hours a day, looking at sites like Twitter and automotive chat rooms to find grievances. They also monitor complaints from dealers, Ammann said. GM will then investigate to try to locate a potential defect before it becomes widespread.
That same openness was at play in the company's quick response after people on social media started poking fun at a regional manager's awkward presentation of a pickup to World Series Most Valuable Player Madison Bumgarner, Ammann said.
The marketing team embraced the attention with tweets about the #ChevyGuy saying the truck has “technology and stuff,” turning a potential negative into a positive.
To encourage employees to identify problems, Barra set up the Speak Up For Safety program. It paid off in September when GM recalled 10,000 Cadillac CTS-V and STS-V models after an intern noticed an overheating fuel pump in his family's car. Barra had lunch with the intern to recognize his initiative.
“We have to take advantage of every data source that we have,” Ammann said.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Welch in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at firstname.lastname@example.org, Niamh Ring
©2014 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)