Following the recall of millions of vehicles this year, General Motors has hired an executive to oversee vehicle safety.
The automaker has been forced to recall 3.3 million vehicles worldwide since February, due to faulty ignition switches, airbag malfunctions and other problems including brake overheating and poor wiring.
The faulty ignition switch, if bumped, can knock out power systems and airbag deployment. Originally, GM said that 12 deaths were caused by this problem. However, a review commissioned by the Center for Auto Safety suggested that 303 crash fatalities in two recalled car models -- the 2003–2007 Saturn Ion and the 2005–2007 Chevrolet Cobalt -- were caused by the failure of airbags to deploy.
Whether or not the report's figures are directly linked to the ignition switch, the automaker knew about the ignition switch problem in 2004, and failed to act upon it. Now several government agencies are investigating the firm.
GM's CEO Mary Barra tried to reassure customers and investors in a video posted on the GM website saying that "terrible things happened" due to the ignition switch defect, and the company "will be better because of this tragic situation if we seize the opportunity."
Following the PR disaster and facing the likelihood of low consumer and investor trust, General Motors has created a new position, the Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety, and has appointed Jeff Boyer to the post.
Boyer will be responsible for "the safety development of GM vehicle systems, confirmation and validation of safety performance, as well as post-sale safety activities, including recalls" worldwide.
The 58-year-old will send frequent safety updates to the CEO, senior management and the GM Board of Directors.
"Jeff's appointment provides direct and ongoing access to GM leadership and the Board of Directors on critical customer safety issues," said Barra. "This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability. If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them."