Source: Smirking Chimp
Executives at General Motors have answered the age-old question of how much is a life worth.
A life is worth 57 cents.
Earlier this week, newly installed General Motors CEO Mary Barra was on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress about GM's recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles because of a faulty ignition switch, a problem that has caused the deaths of at least 13 people.
But more importantly, Barra was answering questions about why GM knew about the ignition switch problem a full decade ago, but chose not to make fixes that would have saved American lives.
At a news conference after her testimony before a House subcommittee, Barra told reporters that, "I think we in the past had more of a cost culture."
In other words, GM cared more about profit margins than peoples' lives.
And at least with the ignition switch debacle, that appears to be the case.
When General Motors first learned about the ignition switch problem, executives and engineers got together to discuss how the company would respond.
According to GM, company engineers got together in 2005, and proposed solutions to the ignition switch problem, which included installing a small new piece of metal called a "switch indent plunger."
But, statements in 2005 GM internal documents show that the company's executives decided not to fix the ignition switch problem because that small new piece of metal was too expensive and an unacceptable cost.
So, how much did the ignition switch piece that GM executives chose not to fix cost?
That's right, according to testimony from House Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado, the piece that needed to be installed in the faulty cars, the "switch indent plunger," cost only 57 cents.
When asked about that number, GM spokesman Jim Cain said that, "Presumably it is based on documents in evidence, so I won't dispute it either."
So, rather than go out and spend 57 cents per car, or a little over $1.48 million to fix all of its cars with the ignition switch problem, GM essentially performed a cost-benefit analysis, and found that fixing the vehicles, and saving American lives, wasn't worth losing that $1.48 million.
To put that in perspective, GM's net income in 2013 was $3.8 billion.