Jon Stewart turned his satirical scalpel in the direction of General Motors on his Wednesday Comedy Central Daily Show broadcast, ridiculing the automaker for waiting almost five years to fix a small, inexpensive part, even though the defect caused 13 fatalities in the interim.
Here's what set Jon Stewart off on his rant: The defect has now, eight years after GM made a fix in the part, led to a recall of 2.6 million cars. But the company has also been accused of covering up the fact that it first learned about faulty ignitions switches in many of its cars in 2001 — but waited until 2006 to do anything about it.
The defective ignition switches sometimes spontaneously shut the car down while the vehicle was in motion, rendering the driver unable to control the car, or as Jon Stewart put it, "For no reason, your car may instantly transform into an uncontrollable 2,500-pound, power-dead metallic blue cannonball. Satellite radio optional."
Then when GM fixed the part in 2006, the company broke with standard procedure and did not assign a new parts number to the new ignition switch — known as a "switch indent plunger" — which, when investigators looked into what was causing the fatalities, disguised the fact that the part had been replaced.
Investigators were baffled because it appeared that nothing had changed in the cars.
The 51-year-old Stewart pointed out that the ignition switches cost about 57 cents each to produce.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra faced the same questions that Jon Stewart leveled Wednesday, but from a source that was far less amusing and not at amused — a congressional panel, where GM was accused of staging a deliberate cover-up.
When Barra called the mysteriously unchanged parts number "completely unacceptable," Sen. Kelly Ayotte shot back that the failure, "goes beyond unacceptable. I think this is criminal deception."
Barra also admitted in her testimony that GM knew the part was defective when it arrived, but the automaker bought the parts anyway.
That also left John Stewart apoplectic.
"They found out in 2001, they studied the problem for 4 years, did an internal cost-benefit analysis using your standard analytic, algorithm, barometric, PE ratio equations, and came up with, 'F*** it!'" said Stewart.
As for the 57 cents each it would have cost to fix the lethal defect, Jon Stewart chided GM, saying, "you could have found at least that much in the seats of the cars you're fixing"
Check out the whole Jon Stewart Daily Show segment, below.