DETROIT -- General Motors' heightened focus on safety in the wake of its recall crisis is spilling over to its 4,300 dealerships.
In a Sept. 30 memo, GM North America President Alan Batey asked dealers to reinforce to their staffs "a sense of safety ownership and responsibility," and told dealers to encourage staffers to "speak up" if they spot a potential problem.
"We must ensure all GM dealers and their staffs understand their role in GM's workplace and product safety strategy," Batey wrote in the memo.
GM is requiring every employee of its dealerships to take a 15-minute online training course to boost awareness of GM's safety strategy and emphasize the importance of voicing safety concerns.
The course will encourage dealers to "empower every team member to make safety personal," the memo says. It also will remind dealership staff to follow GM's safety protocols "without shortcuts or exceptions."
The online course has been added to the training requirements for the fourth quarter under GM's Standards For Excellence dealer-incentive program.
Dealerships that meet those requirements, along with hitting sales and customer-satisfaction targets, qualify for bonus payments that range from around $10,000 for a small dealership to more than $150,000 for big stores.
GM started a "speak up" program for its employees last spring, after the recall of 2.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 24 deaths.
That program is an effort to instill accountability and a sense of urgency on safety issues to counter a pass-the-buck culture in which "no single person owned any decision," according to former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas' investigation into the ignition switch crisis.
Engineers and lawyers knew about the problem for years but failed to elevate it, his review found.
It is part of a broader effort to strengthen GM's safety culture, which also includes the appointment of a global safety chief, adding more safety investigators and restructuring its engineering division.
"GM has made an unwavering commitment to safety," a GM spokeswoman wrote in an email, "which should also apply to our dealer network as the 'face of GM' to our mutual customers."