Federal regulators are taking General Motors to the woodshed for its delayed recalls. But there's also a stark message for the rest of the auto industry: Expect more scrutiny.
This month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx blasted GM's broken safety culture and restricted the automaker's autonomy in terms of evaluating safety matters for at least a year. GM signed a consent decree admitting it waited too long to recall 2.6 million cars for a faulty ignition system. It agreed to pay a $35 million fine. Foxx also asked Congress to raise the maximum fine to $300 million for future offenders.
Still to come for GM is the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently hit Toyota Motor Corp. with a $1.2 billion criminal penalty related to delayed recalls.
All of that before GM completes an internal investigation and shares the findings with the feds.
Washington has become more serious about auto industry regulation, and that's unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. After the revelations of how both GM and Toyota failed to report serious safety issues in a timely manner, others in the industry have no basis for protest.
Many automakers made some adjustments after the Toyota debacle, such as announcing recalls quickly instead of resisting. But the time for sparring with regulators is over. When it comes to public safety, auto companies must show they get it.