GM to staff: Avoid words like ‘deathtrap’

General Motors urged employees to avoid using words such as “deathtrap,” and “safety” when discussing vehicle problems that could potentially lead to recalls.

The phrases were among 69 in a PowerPoint presentation the company used in 2008 to train engineers in using careful, impartial language to describe vehicle issues. It was attached to an agreement the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reached Friday with GM, in which the automaker would pay $35 million in fines to end an investigation into recall delays.

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“Be factual, not fantastic, in your writing,” the presentation said. “For anything you say or do, ask yourself how you would react if it was reported in a major newspaper or on television.”

Other words to avoid included: decapitating, evil, Kevorkianesque, Kurt Cobain, inferno and crippling.

Engineers were also told to replace “problem” with “issue, condition, matter,” and to say that a component or vehicle “does not perform to design,” instead of calling it defective.

In a statement to Reuters, GM spokesman Greg Martin said the company had changed its safety culture since the 2008 presentation, and is now encouraging employees to be more honest about defects.