Still, the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed prompted GM to hire private detectives to smear Nader.
GM President James M. Roche, speaking at a U.S. Senate hearing on March 22, 1966, eventually apologized for the probe.
"As president of General Motors, I hold myself fully responsible for any action authorized or initiated by any officer of the corporation which may have had any bearing on the incidents related to our investigation of Mr. Nader … While there can be no disagreement over General Motors’ legal right to ascertain necessary facts preparatory to litigation … I am not here to excuse, condone, or justify in any way our investigating Mr. Nader," Roche said before the panel. "To the extent that General Motors bears responsibility, I want to apologize here and now to the members of this subcommittee and Mr. Nader. I sincerely hope that these apologies will be accepted. Certainly I bear Nader no ill will."
The book and hearing vaulted auto safety into the public spotlight, leading to a series of landmark laws that have prevented millions of motor vehicle-related deaths and injuries.
In November 1966, Nader sued GM for harassment, invasion of privacy and attempted intimidation. GM settled with Nader in 1970 and agreed to pay him $425,000, which he used to found several public interest organizations.
The settlement, Newsweek remarked, in effect served as “General Motors’ contribution to the consumer movement. They are going to be financing their own ombudsman.”
On the 50th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book, Nader says the auto industry should put the brakes on automated driving.
Nader, speaking with Automotive News from his office in Washington, said he's not against much of the technology in today's vehicles, just the way some of it is being used.
Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 10 percent of 2014's traffic fatalities were caused by distracted driving.