General Motors (GM) has been marred by a decade-long delay in recalling faulty ignition switches, leading to at least 13 deaths. A culture of indecision and procrastination, fuelled by an overly complex committee structure, is largely to blame. The problem was first identified in 2001, yet it took until 2013 for a solution to be proposed, and a further year for a recall to be initiated.

The company’s internal investigation revealed a ‘GM Nod,’ a term used to describe the phenomenon where everyone agrees a problem exists but no one takes responsibility for solving it. This culture of inaction was exacerbated by the ‘GM Salute,’ a crossing of arms and pointing towards others, symbolising a shifting of blame.

GM’s CEO, Mary Barra, has pledged to change this culture and has already fired 15 employees connected to the ignition switch issue. She has also introduced a new ‘Speak Up for Safety’ programme to encourage employees to report potential safety issues. Despite these measures, critics argue that the real test will be whether GM can overcome its bureaucratic inertia and become more proactive in addressing safety concerns.

The company’s future hangs in the balance, with potential fines and lawsuits looming. While GM has set aside $400 million to cover compensation claims, some believe the final bill could be much higher. GM’s past mistakes serve as a stark reminder that a culture of complacency can have deadly consequences.

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