An Open Letter to Jeff Carlson

April 15, 2016

Jeff Carlson, Chairman

National Automobile Dealers Association

 

Dear Mr. Carlson:

My name is Laura Christian.  I am the founder of GM Recall Survivors.  Our group gives a voice to those who lost loved ones in defective General Motors (GM) vehicles.  My birth daughter, Amber Marie Rose, was one of the first GM ignition switch victims.    Since Amber’s death, I have been advocating for critical safety improvements in the auto industry. As such, I felt compelled to write to you about the recent remarks you made in Automotive News

 

I am absolutely appalled by your callous comments concerning auto recalls. To say that only 6% of all safety recalls is hazardous is a gross misrepresentation of the truth.  As a parent of a child who died because her daughter’s vehicle wasn’t recalled, this type of rhetoric is a slap in the face.  There are hundreds of other parents in this country who have been impacted by our broken recall system.  Numerous lives have been forever changed because auto manufacturers and auto suppliers like Takata were focused on cover-ups instead of safety.

 

Given your position, policymakers as well as consumers view you as an industry “expert” and they take your word seriously.  But, your remarks down play the seriousness of a very scary situation here in our country.  Frankly, you should be ashamed.

 

You are setting a very dangerous precedent by minimizing the risks of auto recalls.  Consumers should take recalls very seriously and work with their local dealers to fix problems as quickly as possible.  And, dealers should go out of their way to disclose safety problems to their customers to ensure the cars people are driving are safe.

 

I hope you will take my views into consideration and think more carefully about the impact your words have on elected officials and consumers.  I would also encourage you to retract your statement.  You have an opportunity to rectify this wrong; please do the right thing.

 

Feel free to contact me directly if you would like to discuss this matter in further detail. 

 

Sincerely,

Laura Christian

Baltimore Sun: Ungag auto dealers

2/2/16 Baltimore Sun.

Every time I open up a newspaper or turn on the nightly news there seems to be a new headline positioning General Motors as this decade's "comeback kid." Though GM has returned to profitability, it has done so at an immense expense to those who wrongly trusted this company to provide them with safe vehicles: It cost more than 120 lives and years of heartbreak for those of us left behind. But, that is a storyline no one is talking about.

Amber Marie Rose, the daughter I gave up for adoption at birth, and the other victims of these senseless tragedies were killed by a dysfunctional ignition switch that can lead a car's engine and electrical system to shut down and disable its air bags, a defect the company tried to hide instead of fix. GM failed to protect drivers and passengers, yet the company was let off with nothing more than a fine and some meaningless oversight penalties — perhaps because so much money and political capital was invested in GM with the auto bailout.

The victims and their families deserve justice for the immeasurable losses we have suffered. I reunited with Amber when she was 15. A year later in 2005, she was killed when her Chevrolet Cobalt crashed and the car's airbag didn't deploy. I won't rest until I know I have done everything in my power to change how the auto industry operates to help ensure safety problems like this are never swept under the rug again.

One effort I am working on to accomplish this goal is taking place right here in Maryland — my home, Amber's home. Over the last few months, I have been working closely with several state lawmakers to introduce the Amber Rose Bill, which would give free speech protections to Maryland auto dealers who wish to disclose potential issues to consumers.

Dealers constantly receive technical bulletins from car companies about issues, but disclosing these issues to their customers isn't something that they are allowed to do under their franchise agreements. The Amber Rose Bill, which has not yet been filed, will change this practice and give local dealerships permission to share what they know with all consumers. For example, if a consumer takes their car into a dealership for a routine auto check, that dealer's service department would be allowed to alert the customer about potential safety issues and defects — even if a recall or official notice from the auto manufacturer hasn't been released.

Consumers need to have better access to important safety and product information about their cars. It is time to curb abusive practices by automakers like GM — including retaliation, audits and limits on the ability to disclose information — that make it difficult for local auto dealers to do the right thing for their customers. The Amber Rose Bill will do just that.

Little has been done to rectify GM's wrongdoings. But Maryland lawmakers can take a stand for consumers and pass meaningful reform to keep more drivers safe behind the wheel — regardless of the type of vehicle they are operating. This common sense legislation is a policy change everyone in Annapolis should get behind. Doing so will send a strong signal to Washington and other states to follow Maryland's lead. Anyone who shares my sentiment should contact their legislators and ask them to pass the Amber Rose Bill. With so many policy issues to consider this year in Annapolis, it is important for our elected officials to know that their constituents want this bill's passage to be a priority. I have also created a petition on Change.org urging the bill's passage; as of Tuesday, it had more than 97,000 signatures — nearly two thirds of the way to the 150,000 signature goal.

When it comes to automobile safety, consumers cannot afford to sit in silence and trust the manufacturers to do the right thing. Maryland drivers are truly counting on the General Assembly to take action and I hope our state representatives won't let us down.

Yesterday the judge denied justice

The judge ruled that the jury will never hear our stories. They will never hear of how many of us lost loved ones. How I lost Amber. I am sure the judge believes that the stories would prejudice a jury, but how else is the jury to hear the true cost of GM's egregious behavior?? Through expert witnesses that will explain exactly what happened to the car during those last fatal moments? It fails to convey the horror that each person experienced in those last moments they would be alive. Imagine driving and your car suddenly loses power. The steering wheel that was so pliable just a moment before becomes rock hard and refuses to budge easily. The brakes feel rooted in place. So much effort to simply move it at all. Then the impact or worse, impacts. The steering wheel becomes a solid weapon. No airbag to cushion the blow. Unfortunately, I don't have to imagine what happened to Amber. I was told by the EMT who responded. Her car went airborne and landed on the passenger side. She was thrown under the dashboard of that side and was pined from the waist down. She was terrified and screaming. The EMT (bless her heart, I will always believe she is an angel) crawled in with her and held her hand. Amber stopped screaming begging the EMT not to leave her. She stayed until the jaws of life were ready. The impact was too much for her and she died very soon after. The only damage being a cut on her head and a severely lacerated liver. Had the airbag deployed Amber would be here today.

Our lives will never be the same now. For me I will always wonder what she would be doing today. Would she have completed school? Taken over my company? Found love? Would I have grandbabies?

These are the stories the jury should hear and now, never will.

Kudos to Christie for promising prosecution of GM execs relating to ignition switch defect | Opinion

11/5/15, The Star Ledger

The Obama administration has failed to hold General Motors CEO Mary Barra and her company responsible for the faulty GM products that caused over 100 deaths. At least one presidential candidate has the courage to speak up for the victims of their crimes.

At the GOP presidential debate in Colorado, Gov. Chris Christie looked the audience in the eye and promised them he would have prosecuted GM employees for the incompetence, misconduct and deliberate foot-dragging surrounding the ignition switch defect that led to at least 174 deaths and scores of injuries. He would have sent them to jail.

When will the other candidates, of both parties – and more importantly, politicians who are in office today – have the courage to stand up and say the same thing?

General Motors knew about the deadly ignition switch problem for a decade before a recall was initiated. During that time, 174 drivers and passengers, one of them my daughter, were killed in wrecks that could have been avoided if GM had made an effort to fix the problem instead of cover it up. The penalty? The company paid a fine and agreed to three years of "oversight" by a federal monitor. That amounts to a slap on the wrist.

Read more of my opinion editorial for the Star Ledger at the link below...