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General Motors, Following In Toyota's Footsteps, Appoints Chief Safety Czar

General Motors, Following In Toyota's Footsteps, Appoints Chief Safety Czar

General Motors (NYSE: GM) on Tuesday announced the appointment of a new global safety executive yesterday.

CEO Marry Barra has named Jeff Boyer the vice president of global vehicle safety. In this newly-created position, Boyer will be responsible for the safety development of GM vehicle systems, confirmation and validation of safety performance, and post-sale safety activities, such as recalls.

According to a company press release, Boyer will provide vehicle safety updates to Barra, senior management and the board of directors. His position is effective immediately.

“Jeff's appointment provides direct and ongoing access to GM leadership and the Board of Directors on critical customer safety issues,” Barra said in the statement. “This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability. If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs an additional resources, he will get them.”

Related:Mary Barra Takes Charge, Launches Internal Inquiry Into GM Recall

Boyer most recently served as the executive director of engineering operations and systems development. He has been with GM since 1974.

Senior Kelley Blue Book analyst Jack Nerad said this appointment is another indication of how seriously GM and Barra are in dealing with the safety recalls that have engulfed the company.

“There is no doubt that GM wants to send a strong message that this is not business as usual,” he said. “Instead, it signals the company is changing its ways in identifying and dealing with potential safety issues.”

GM recalled more than 1.6 million vehicles worldwide last month due to faulty ignition switches. The Detroit automaker recalled another 1.7 million vehicles earlier this week, bringing the total number of recalled cars to 3.3 million since mid-February.

Same game, different players

Toyota (NYSE: TM) made a similar move amidst its recall crisis a few years ago. In April of 2011, the Japanese automaker appointed Moritaka Yoshida as the chief safety technology officer.

Yoshida's responsibilities were similar to Boyer's -- communicating with the company and the public, handling safety-related decisions and introducing more active safety technologies, according to Automotive News.

In addition to a newly-created safety czar position, Toyota had also initiated an internal committee to handle the automaker's troubles. Barra announced earlier this month she has assembled a team of executives to examine the recall and make decisions on how to move forward.

The four-year investigation into the Toyota recalls came to a close today when the U.S. Justice Department said the Japanese company will pay $1.2 billion to settle a criminal probe, Reuters reports.

Karl Brauer, another senior KBB analyst, said the GM and Toyota cases are similar because they both involved a long, established history of vehicle incidents that took years to identify and address.

“The timing of this settlement is interesting because it means the government finalizing the last major automotive recall, Toyota's unintended accelerations, just as it gears up for the next big recall related to GM's ignition switch,” said Brauer. “While the $1 billion price tag represents a costly resolution, Toyota can put this issue behind it to fully focus on current and future challenges in a highly competitive market. Conversely, GM is just getting started on its path to resolution and will probably be working to resolve the ignitions switch recall for some time.”


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