Ten years ago, General Motors invited federal safety regulators to test drive cars at its proving ground outside Detroit. The goal, according to slides shown that day: "Establish through demonstration and data that an engine stall is not, per se, a safety defect."
Now, in the face of evidence that faulty ignition switches in various small cars contributed to at least 54 crashes and 13 deaths, GM's thinking has fundamentally changed.
"Anytime a vehicle stalls now, we consider it to be a safety issue," CEO Mary Barra assured members of Congress in a hearing last week.
That radical shift in thinking is rippling through GM -- factoring into two recalls this month covering nearly 4 million GM vehicles with ignitions vulnerable to bumpy roads or a driver's knee, and potentially widening the pool of crash victims who could seek compensation.
With its new perspective on the hazards of stalling, GM says it's going through its current lineup and some past models in search of any more problems like the deadly defect in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars.
"We're testing almost everything in our portfolio for ignition issues," spokesman Alan Adler said.
GM's reversal could lead to recalls for issues that the company previously might have addressed with a routine service bulletin to dealers.
For years, GM engineers, lawyers and even some executives labeled stalling as no more than an inconvenience, sometimes talking down colleagues who treated it more seriously, former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas found in his investigation.
"That's just insane, isn't it?" Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., asked Valukas during last week's House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing.
"I won't use the word 'insane,'" Valukas replied, "but I'm troubled by that."