WHEN DRIVERS and passengers enter automobiles, they want to believe that the manufacturer of that particular vehicle has made it as safe as possible. They know their lives might depend on safety measures such as seat restraints, air bags, shatter-proof windshields, and flexible steering wheels. Few drivers even consider that the way in which a car is designed may save their lives. General Motors (GM) makes billions of dollars a year by selling vehicles, and most consumers trust these purchases.

However, before the consumer movement of the 1960s, GM, like other automobile manufacturers, allowed increased profits to take precedence over consumer safety. Even after federal law forced manufacturer responsibility on the automobile industry, design flaws continued to surface, albeit with less frequency.

The driving force behind ...

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