General Motors' Shocking Advice to Employees

Posted on behalf of Phillips Law Group on May 21, 2014 in Defective Products

General Motors reached a settlement with the Department of Transportation on Friday regarding its massive recall of millions of vehicles with defective ignition switches, and agreed to pay a the government a fine of $35 million. The consent order which finalized this agreement included several shocking exhibits which provide insight into GM's company culture during the production of its faulty ignition switches. Attached to the consent order were copies of multiple slides, which were part of a presentation by GM managers to company employees. This presentation instructed GM employees on how to speak and write about defects in the automaker's vehicles.

GM advised its employees that judgment words, including speculations, opinions, or words with emotional connotations should not be used when describing GM products. Employees were advised that they should not use any words which could reflect badly on the company if their comments were made public or became part of a lawsuit.

For example, instead of saying that a vehicle was defective, employees could say that the vehicle does not perform to design. The word problem could be softened by using terms like issue, condition, or matter instead. Phrases like above or below expectations, could substitute for harsher words like good, or bad.

In addition to providing employees advice about substitutions in their language, GM employees also received a long list of words which should never be used when speaking about General Motors products. While some of these words seem to be relatively innocuous, like bad, defect, safety, and serious, others are much more incriminating. GM employees were advised not to use words conveying extreme emotions or events, like disemboweling, Kevorkianesque, Corvair-like, rolling sarcophagus, Hindenburg, and apocalyptic.

One has to wonder what kind of language GM employees were using to describe the automakers vehicles before this presentation.

A copy of the consent order and attached exhibits containing the slideshow can be found at the Wall Street Journals website, http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/GMConsentOrder051614.pdf

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