GM recall survivors group launches Detroit billboard

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

A group associated with victims of General Motors Co.’s faulty ignition switches is paying for a billboard in Detroit that aims to remind employees and CEO Mary Barra of the company’s promise to improve its safety record.

The billboard with the message “Let’s make sure they never forget” goes up Monday and will be visible in September near the corner of Rosa Parks Boulevard and the W. Fisher Service Drive along I-75 in Detroit.

The billboard shows pictures of six young people who died in crashes, including Laura Christian’s birth daughter. Amber Marie Rose was 16 when she died in a 2005 accident in a Chevrolet Cobalt tied to the ignition switch defect. The billboard includes a Barra quote from a 2014 Congressional hearing: “I never want anyone associated with GM to forget what happened.”

The billboard shows pictures of six young people who died in crashes.

Christian is the founder of GM Recall Survivors, which includes family and friends of those killed and injured in crashes tied to GM’s defective ignition switches.

“We’re trying to raise awareness, obviously, for auto safety and at the same time provoke GM to truly commit to safety,” Christian said Friday. “In the meantime, we want other folks to not forget that auto safety is a serious issue. This is an ongoing issue. And until we get new laws, we’re going to lose more people.”

GM Recall Survivors is planning a news conference at 11 a.m. Sept. 16 near GM’s headquarters in Detroit. Christian, a Maryland native, said she has invited Barra. Christian seeks Barra’s support of its efforts to create greater accountability for executives in cases of deadly recalls and banning sales of recalled used cars until they are fixed.

GM on Friday said it was aware of the billboard, but did not comment.

The automaker in early 2014 recalled 2.59 million older Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars for defective ignition switches that can inadvertently shut off the engine, disabling power steering and air bags.

The ignition switch defect ultimately was tied to 124 deaths and GM established a victims compensation fund for families of those who died and hundreds of people who were injured. Last September, GM agreed to pay a $900 million fine to the Department of Justice, and, it agreed to three years of oversight by a federal monitor as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. It also paid a then-record $35 million fine in 2014 to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the delayed recall.

The billboard mentions May 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C., as a “Stand for Justice” event that the group is organizing to lobby legislators to enact laws to protect Americans from defective automobiles.

Christian said she hopes the billboard will get the public’s attention and to support law changes: “I hope it awakens some folks that this is something that can happen to them and to their family.”

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