GM Chevy Cobalt Tragedy Offers Lesson on Importance of Written Communication


To learn about the importance of written communication for conveying critical information, check out how two misleading words triggered a catastrophic communication problem at GM and resulted in the loss of 13 lives.

“Customer convenience.” Those two words gave the wrong impression to internal committee members who reviewed the Chevy Cobalt ignition switch failure. According to a 315-page report by Anton Valukas , the problem, which dates back to 2002, didn’t receive the attention it deserved because the ignition switch failure was initially labeled as a “customer convenience” issue. Each internal committee that reviewed the problem interpreted "customer convenience" label as a simple driver annoyance. In reality the ignition switch defect was a serious safety hazard. Research and litigation delayed a recall until 2013.

Other malfunctions labeled in reports as “safety defects” throughout the years have triggered a fast response from GM. If the Chevy Cobalt’s ignition switch problem had been categorized as a safety defect in the first place, instead of merely a customer convenience problem, 13 lives may have been saved.

Despite pressure to cut costs at the peak of the company’s financial crisis, GM states it always places a top priority on safety. Had the safety defect been identified with the proper wording in the Cobalt performance reports, driver safety would have taken priority over saving on the cost of fixing the urgent ignition switch safety problem.

Surely, poor communication wasn’t the only reason this tragedy unfolded, but it contributed significantly to the lack of attention GM gave the ignition switch problem even as the unfortunate deaths it caused continued to climb between 2002 and the 2013 recall.

To learn more about the importance of written communication, contact Hurley Write, Inc . We can help you work through communication problems and customize courses precisely in line with your company’s needs.

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