It’s a beautiful story. One that offers hope in a sea of confusion and heartache.
And it’s a true story. Wrapped up in the news of the GM recall, the little part that could, the news of the negligence and the secrecy and the possible cover-ups, the news of the lives that could have been saved and the damaging wreckage… this story is inspiring. And it’s also the whole reason why we know about of the GM issues today.
The story starts with a tragedy: The death of a beloved daughter in a terrible car wreck. Her parents hire a lawyer in Georgia after the death, thinking that her tragic end may have been related to a then-current GM recall involving a power steering problem.
Straightaway, the lawyer hired a mechanic who found that the crash was not related to the power steering problem. Instead, data taken from the car’s black box hinted towards an ignition problem, or failure. So the lawyer hired Mr. Hood, a skilled investigator of transportation vehicles and machinery.
Mr. Hood studied how the ignition switch functioned. He found that a small part composed of plastic and metal at one end of the switch controlled whether the car’s engine was in the accessory position, thus allowing electronics like the radio to run, or was in the on or off position. Then Mr. Hood purchased a replacement part from a GM dealership nearby for $30. And that’s when the missing details started coming together.
Because this replacement part was not like the others. But Mr. Hood did not know that yet. All he knew, after inspecting the GM replacement part, was that it was not the same as the part, or switch, involved in the specific wreck he was investigating, the switch he had photographed, X-rayed, disassembled and studied for days on end in the fall of 2012.
That’s when Mr. Hood saw that he needed to find other GM cars involved in recent car wrecks to determine which part they contained in their ignition switches — was it the replacement part or was it the part in the car he was investigating, two parts that were very different yet, interestingly, had the same part number? Mr. Hood dug through junkyards to find more parts and acquired 18 in all. All of these parts were from GM Cobalts like the one involved in the case he was hired to investigate.
10392423. The parts all had the same identification number. 10392423.
But they were not the same at all. Instead, the replacement part provided by the GM dealership was an improvement from the parts Mr. Hood salvaged from junkyards.
In the parts sourced from junkyards, there was a tiny metal plunger in the switch. But that part was not in the replacement part.
The replacement part had a more compressed spring.
And, most important of all, the replacement part required more power in order to turn its ignition from the on position to the off position.
These parts were nothing alike, they just had the same identification number. And while the newer and improved part could be acquired from the local GM dealership, for the millions of GM cars already on the road with the faulty ignition part — how were they to know that there was a big improvement to a little part in their car, one that could perhaps even help to save their lives from a potentially deadly car wreck?
Through his research, Mr. Hood discovered that GM, along with the help of the supplier that made the part, Delphi, had changed the switch sometime in 2006 or early 2007. The change in the switch may have made it less likely that the driver could jar the ignition key and accidentally cause the car to cut off engine power and deactivate its air bags.
The sad thing is this change was made so quietly that GM even had to hire an outside consultant in 2013 to discover which Colbalt model years contained the original switch. Because the part numbers were the same.
And that’s how it happened.
This whole GM recall, the GM lawsuits, all of the news and the hearings and the new information you hear today. It is all because of the Melton family who hired a lawyer who hired a mechanic and then an engineer named Mr. Hood who studied an ignition switch and ordered a replacement and dug through junkyards to find out something that even the people at GM couldn’t figure out, thanks to their efforts to keep the switch change a secret even within their own company.
Today we would like to thank Mr. Hood for his work in helping to bring this serious issue to light. Mr. Hood was dedicated to finding the cause of the car wreck he was hired to help solve, and in turn he may have helped to save countless other people from dangerous car wrecks because, thanks to his discoveries, GM cannot hide their secret any longer. No, Mr. Hood exposed it.
And that’s why we do what we do. To expose the truth. To bring about something good in this world and to make sure, to the best of our abilities, that wrongful actions do not go unpunished.