ATLANTA -- "Today's GM will do the right thing." That was the promise of new General Motors CEO Mary Barra, as she testified before the senate subcommittee looking into why the company delayed recalling vehicles with faulty ignition switches.
GM is accused of deceiving the American public and putting lives at risk to save a dollar, or more precisely, 57-cents for a part that could have fixed the problem.
Lawmakers excoriated the automaker for hiding the issue, which has been linked to at least a dozen deaths.
"They and the American public were failed by a corporate culture that chose to conceal rather than disclose," said Chairwoman Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.
One of those killed was a Georgia woman, Brooke Melton. It was her case and her family's attorney, Lance Cooper, who with the help of engineer Mark Hood, brought the faulty ignition switch to light.
Senators acknowledged his work today.
"Mr.Cooper finally confronted General Motors with the facts someone at General Motors had switched out the unsafe ignition switches in several car models and covered it up."
Through video depositions with a GM engineer, Cooper uncovered evidence that the manufacturer knew about the problem more than a decade ago.
"They knew about the defect they discussed the defect," said Cooper, a Marietta attorney.
And faced with the evidence that Cooper had gathered, GM chose to settle a lawsuit with Melton's parents.
"The evidence that we discovered shows that GM knew how to fix this problem," Cooper said. "But solely for financial reasons in 2005 (GM) chose not to fix the defect."