Transcript: Sen. Edward Markey’s press briefing remarks on GM’s ignition switch recall – April 1, 2014

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) on GM’s ignition switch recall on April 1, 2014:

…This is a 2007 Chevy Colbalt ignition switch. This is the same design that failed, shutting off vehicle airbags, and killing innocent victims.

We now know that the difference between this switch and one that would have worked properly was by far death. And do you know the other difference? $2. That’s right. $2. That’s how little this ignition switch could have cost to repair. Just $2.

$2 that could have saved the priceless lives of 18-year-old Natasha Weigel, 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, 19-year-old Sarah Trautwein, and the lives of so many others.

But that was apparently $2 too much for General Motors.

$2 too much to act when a Saturn Ion stalled in 2003 and a technician found that the ignition switch had been worn out by a heavy key ring.

$2 too much to act when GM received more and more reports of its cars’ engines turning off by themselves in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

Too much even after GM found evidence of 9 Chevrolet Cobalt crashes involving airbags that did not deploy in 2007.

GM’s failure to act in the face of additional deaths, injuries, and complaints went on and on until just two months ago when it finally started to recall these vehicles.

This recall is a decade late and dozens of lives and injuries short.

What is almost as enraging as GM’s failure to act is the Transportation Department’s refusal to stop allowing companies to hide fatal defects from millions of car owners.

In 2000, I worked with Congressman Henry Waxman and my other colleagues, including Diana DeGette, to create the early warning reporting system as part of the auto safety law passed to deal with the Ford Firestone rollover defect that killed more than 250 people. But when it came time for the Bush administration to implement our law, they acquiesced to GM and other car companies’ desire to keep vital safety information secret.

In 2010, when Congress learned about the Toyota’s sudden unintended acceleration safety defect, I wrote an amendment to require automakers to automatically submit documents and accident reports into the early warning reporting system that way consumers, safety experts, or the Department of Transportation could get real early warnings before a decade of deaths and deceptions have passed. When automakers opposed my efforts to make more information public, the bill passed without those requirements.

And in 2012, the automakers also opposed another requirement to make more information public that were in the Senate’s transportation bill. Today, I say, enough is enough.

Today, I call upon the automakers and the Transportation Department to support the bill that I introduced along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal last week to ensure tragedies like this never happen again.

Our bill will do four main things to protect our roads and our families.

One, it would require automakers to submit the documents that first alerts them to fatal accidents involving their vehicles to the searchable early warning reporting system.

Two, it would require the Transportation Department to publish materials it receives about safety accidents that it currently keeps secret.

Three, it would require the Transportation Department to upgrade its databases to give consumers the tools they need to protect themselves.

And fourth, it would require the Transportation Department to use the information it has to better identify fatal defects before they claim more innocent lives.

This is the least that we can do for the lives that have been lost and the families that are still struggling for justice.

Justice for Isaiah [incomprehensible audio], for Amado [incomprehensible audio], for Ryan Quigley, for Richard Scott Bailey, for Amy Rademaker, for Kelly Erin Ruddy, for Michael [incomprehensible audio], for Joshua Wooten.

We can make sure this doesn’t happen again. For all of them, we must make sure this doesn’t happen. We cannot allow the next chapter in this automobile safety tragedy to have the same ending.

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