Safety comes to the fore

UPDATED: 7/9/14 10:40 am ET - correction

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly said Toyota was fined for failing to cooperate with U.S. investigators.

As the General Motors recall crisis evolves, it's clear that the entire auto industry's approach to quality, safety, public disclosure and legal responsibility will change fundamentally.

GM's attitude about recalls is changing for the better. It is taking the initiative in compensating victims. 

But GM is still playing defense. And the $1.2 billion fine the Department of Justice imposed on Toyota this year related to its 2009-10 recalls is a signal that future punitive damages on safety issues will not be limited to civil cases. 

Old ways of dealing with safety flaws -- minimizing recalls and compensating victims privately through nondisclosure agreements -- just aren't good enough anymore. Regulators won't allow them, and the public won't accept them. 

And, frankly, emerging details of past stalling, incompetence and lax behavior at GM leaves everybody without a plausible defense in the future. 

The industry is trying to learn from GM's case. For starters, it changes the economics of auto safety by making the cost of repairs far more expensive than prevention.

Tags: Editorials

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Email Newsletters
  • General newsletters
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Mondays)
  • (As needed)
  • Video newscasts
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Weekdays)
  • (Saturdays)
  • Special interest newsletters
  • (Thursdays)
  • (Tuesdays)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Monthly)
  • (Wednesdays)
  • (Bimonthly)
  • Special reports
  • (As needed)
  • (As needed)
  • Communication preferences