05/14/2015 06:03 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT

GM Repeatedly Missed Opportunty in Ignition Switch Crisis

This April 1, 2014 photo shows the ignition switch of a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Alexandria, Va. A federal judge in Texas on Thursday, April 17, 2014 denied an emergency motion that would have forced General Motors to tell owners of 2 million recalled cars to stop driving their vehicles until their ignition switches are repaired. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)

Opportunity knocks for companies all the time. Companies need to be diligent at looking for opportunities. Crisis is often an opportunity. It knocks, sometimes loudly.

By not answering the door to opportunity, General Motors has managed to completely destroy their public image, counteract any growth they may have experienced over the past few years, all because they thought that a 57-cent part wasn't worth a recall. They defined the future of GM by ignoring the crisis that could have easily become opportunity.

They could have easily fixed this 57-cent part years ago -- long before it cost 100 people their lives .

Apparently they have known about this problem since the Saturn Ion in 2001 followed by the Chevy Cobalt in 2004. In 2003, they started receiving complaints about it.

Knock knock.

GM did open an engineering inquiry in 2004 and even identified a fix in 2005. They decided not to fix it and the inquiry was closed. That knock went unanswered.

In 2006, GM approved a change to the ignition switch but discovered years later the part number wasn't changed.

Knock knock.

Still that knock went unanswered.

In 2014, GM decided to finally recall Cobalt and G5 models from 2005 to 2007, which later expanded to include the 2003-2007 Ion, 2006-2007 HHR and Pontiac Solstice, and the 2007 Saturn Sky. The original recall was for 1.6 million cars. A month later the recall increased for a total of 2.2 million cars.

What else did they do to answer the knock and potential opportunity? They placed two engineers on paid leave.

They had the opportunity to go to the public and say, "Since we value the lives of every single person that rides in a GM Vehicle, we are going to recall every single car that has the ignition switch problem. Not only are we going to fix your car free of charge, we are going to make sure that it is done quickly and efficiently."

They didn't answer the door to opportunity and at this point there have been 100 deaths, 284 injuries, with more claims that have haven't been investigated yet. At the moment there are 4342 applications to the GM Ignition Compensation Fund. GM estimates the recall campaign is going to cost the company $1.3 billion. They still haven't fixed all the cars on the road with this problem. And their image? Worth less than 57 cents.

By just taking responsibility, by putting the needs of the customer front and center (instead of trying to figure out whose fault it was), they would have actually earned the respect of the public. They may have contributed to the perception that GM really is concerned with our safety and likely would have sold more cars as a result.

Instead, they are selling fewer cars. They are giving the appearance of not caring about the safety of their customers. All for a 57-cent part.

Opportunity knocks every single day and sometimes it disguises itself as a crisis. Are you positioned to answer the knock?


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