Recall Looks Like Big Trouble for GM

General-MotorsWe knew the story of faulty ignition switches, airbag failures and the subsequent recall of 1.6 million General Motors automobiles would make for terrible press. But the most recent revelation will almost certainly compound the problem: last night we learned from GM’s own reports that it knew of the issue approximately three years earlier than previously reported.

Of course, this finding will only help to fuel the “novel” lawsuits waiting to be filed.

GM has taken some crisis comms 101 steps to address the problem:

Last week new CEO Mary Barra announced that she would “personally” direct the recall efforts in a move that even USA Today says “came close to directly blaming” the old guard for the crisis. Yesterday the company made another face-saving announcement by offering “loaners” and $500 credits toward new vehicles to those whose cars will be recalled.

The conditions: these vehicles will only be available to those who request them until related parts arrive at local dealerships in early April—and the $500 must be spent on a new GM car before April 30.

For examples of how to proceed, GM may want to look to Tesla: the electric car company’s summer 2013 recall was completely voluntary, and founder Elon Musk personalized it with a blunt blog post explaining exactly why he decided to proceed.

Of course, that case was far smaller and didn’t involve any fatalities. Still, so far GM’s moves look a whole lot like window dressing.