GM CEO Barra: ‘I am deeply sorry’

General Motors CEO Mary Barra

General Motors CEO Mary Barra

NEW YORK — General Motors came under harsh criticism on Capitol Hill Tuesday as CEO Mary Barra went before members of Congress investigating a botched GM recall.

Barra, appearing before a House committee, apologized for the 13 deaths that GM says were caused by a faulty ignition switch, as well as GM’s 10-year delay in issuing a recall. That February recall has grown to 2.6 million vehicles worldwide.

“Today’s GM will do the right thing,” said Barra, who was named CEO in January. “That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall, especially the families and friends (of those) who lost their lives or were injured. I am deeply sorry.”

Members from both sides of the aisle attacked both GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the federal safety regulator.

“We know this: The red flags were there for GM and NHTSA to take action, but for some reason it didn’t happen,” said Tim Murphy, a Republican. “To borrow a phrase, what we have here is a failure to communicate, and the results were deadly.”

Democrat Diana DeGette said that GM elected not to replace a part that would have cost 57 cents a car because of cost and the lack of “an acceptable business case.”

“The company continued to sell cars knowing they were unsafe,” DeGette said. “We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

Barra said the statements in GM documents from 2005 that GM elected not to do a fix because it was too expensive were “very disturbing.”

“If that’s the reason the decision was made, that is not acceptable,” she said. “That is not the way we do business today.”

She admitted the company had been operating under a “cost culture” in the days before the 2009 bankruptcy, but said today it is operating under a “customer culture.”

When asked about when GM knew of problems and why decisions were made, she repeatedly said she did not know the answer.

“That’s why we are doing a full and complete investigation,” she said.

Earlier Tuesday, family members of people who were killed in some of the recalled cars held a press conference on Capitol Hill calling for GM to take the cars off the roads until it can make the fixes. GM expects to start repairing the ignition switch next week, and has said it is safe for people to drive them until then, as long as they don’t have any other keys on their key ring.

The faulty ignition switch can cause the car to shut off while driving, which will disable the airbag, power steering and anti-lock brakes.

Barra met privately with some of the family members at GM’s Washington office Monday evening and apologized to them in person.

Barra’s testimony came the day after GM announced yet another recall of 1.3 million U.S. cars to fix problems with the power steering. Some of the cars are among those covered by the ignition switch recall.

The latest recall brings total recalls by GM up to nearly 7 million vehicles so far this year.

2 comments

  • David Hedgecock

    This is what happens when you have the U.S. Government owning and managing an Automobile Company. Folks, for all intents and purposes, GM is owned by Uncle Sam;;;that’s us. So, expect more of this kind of stuff, so long as beauracrats are running the place. And if you think this is fun, just wait untill Obamacare is fully implemented and running. We’re going to have one mell of a hess, and watch everyone’s premiums skyrocket. Why is it that fully about half of our country wants the government involved in their lives more and more and then they complain when each time;they mismanage and drive prices up and up. Just look at where Medicare costs are now. Also, take a look at the USPS, and Fannie May and Fannie Mac. We should be sending these agencies back to the private sector;;instead of more and more government intrusion into what should be run by private enterprise and competition. Maybe one day, we will all learn that bigger is not better and the Federal Government doesn’t do anything cheaper and better.

    • chucky1992

      I thought GM had paid it back. I don’t think the government should have stepped in like they did anyway. We have a growing population of people who are dependant on the government for things that they should be working for and earning. It is not likely to get better though because those are the same people who are content to drive their tax refunds (though they have not paid any taxes) in their sometimes surprisingly nice cars to their subsidized houses and eat their subsidized food while watching cable and talking on their mobile phones between government funded hospital visits and election days when they re-elect the same folks who continue to provide them with all of these subsidies. I’m not bitter. :)

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