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GM CEO Mary Barra Adds Chairman to Title

Solso becomes lead independent director

by on Jan.04, 2016

GM wants to build the best cars, not sell the most cars, CEO Barra said at a recent conference.

She stepped into the limelight – and a trial by fire. Now, General Motors CEO Mary Barra is being rewarded with an additional title, chairman of the world’s third-largest automaker.

Tim Solso, who had been serving in that role for the last two years, will step back from the chairman’s post but remain GM’s lead independent director, the job he had prior to the retirement of former Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

Breaking News!

“At a time of unprecedented change, the Board concluded it is in the best interests of the company to combine the roles of Chair and CEO in order to drive the most efficient execution of our plan and vision of the future,” said a statement attributed to Solso.


GM: Ignition Switch Victim Fund Paid Out Nearly $600 Mi

Total cost for scandal now tops $2 bil.

by on Dec.10, 2015

A replacement for the faulty GM ignition switches.

An independent victims’ fund set up by General Motors paid out nearly $600 million to settle 399 claims related to a faulty ignition switch, bringing to more than $2 billion the total amount of money the maker has spent as a result of a defect linked to more than 100 deaths.

The announcement came Thursday as the special fund began wrapping up operations. It had been set up on orders from Mary Barra, the then-new GM CEO, last year as part of a broader response to the maker’s extensive safety problems. GM has also had to pay out $900 million to settle a Justice Department criminal probe, and millions more in fines levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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But GM’s troubles are far from over. Not all of those offered settlements from the victims’ fund accepted, and they are among a number of others still set to have their day in court, with a series of trials set to begin in U.S. District Court in New York next month.


GM’s Barra “More Impatient…More Determined”

CEO lays out strategy for 2015; zero defects, more trucks – but more green cars, as well.

by on Jan.08, 2015

GM CEO Barra, "less patient." than before.

It was a “year of great disappointment, but also a year of great progress,” said General Motors CEO Mary Barra as she summed up her first, tough year on the job and outlined the challenges and goals she is facing for 2015.

The first female CEO of a major global automaker, Barra took on her new role just weeks before GM announced the recall of 2.6 million vehicles equipped with faulty ignition switches now linked to the deaths of at least 42 people. That was clearly apparent in the comments the 53-year-old Barra made, stressing her intent to turn GM into a “zero-defects company.”

Automotive Insight!

On a personal level, the GM CEO said the events of the last year have made her “more impatient and more determined” to deal with a corporate bureaucracy that had, in the past, made it difficult to achieve any real change – and which led to not just the recall crisis of 2014 but the GM bankruptcy five years earlier.


Embattled GM Chief Counsel Millikin Retires Early

Whether a man of “impeccable integrity” or “gross incompetence” is a matter of debate.

by on Oct.17, 2014

Millikin became GM General Counsel in 2009.

Embattled General Motors General Counsel Michael Millikin will retire early, the automaker has announced, a move that comes shortly after the maker was hit with a $10 billion class action lawsuit alleging it long concealed a series of safety problems.

While GM CEO Mary Barra issued a statement praising the 66-year-old attorney for his “tremendous career,” it is likely that Millikin’s departure comes as something of a relief considering the way he has been portrayed as a pivotal figure in the mishandling of a long-delayed ignition switch recall now linked to 27 deaths.

The Last Word!

Just three months ago, Millikin came under direct fire during a series of Capitol Hill hearings looking into the GM recall brouhaha. At one point, Senator Claire McCaskill, a Maryland Democrat, directly accused Millikin of “incompetence,” asking CEO Barra why he hadn’t been fired.


GM Targets 269,000 Vehicles in Five New Recalls

Brings to 66 total number of recalls this year.

by on Aug.08, 2014

Older versions of the Saturn Vue have been targeted in the latest burst of GM recalls.

(Editor’s Note: GM has revised its original news release, noting that it double-counted one of the recalls announced last week. This story — but not the headline — has been revised to reflect the correct count.)

General Motors has announced another five recalls to wrap up a busy week for the Detroit maker, bringing to 65the total number of products it has targeted for safety-related problems since the beginning of the year.

Friday’s announcements collectively involving 267,000 cars and utility vehicles. The largest of the recalls involves 202,115 Saturn Vue crossovers from the 2002 to 2004 model-years. GM says their ignition keys could be removed even while the vehicles are running, a problem linked to two known crashes and one injury.

Safety News!

The latest recalls come barely a day after GM had to call back nearly 190,000 older SUVs for the third time to address a power window switch problem that could lead to vehicle fires.


GM Recalling SUVs for 3rd Time to Fix Fire Risk

Problem switches have created problems for numerous makers.

by on Aug.08, 2014

GM is re-recalling a number of 2006 - 2007 midsize SUVs, such as this Chevrolet TrailBlazer, due to a potential fire hazard.

General Motors is recalling almost 190,000 older SUVs for the third time to try to fix problem switches that could cause a vehicle fire.

The problem is so severe that the maker is warning owners to park the vehicles outside until repairs can be made – but it doesn’t expect to have the necessary parts until at least October.

Behind the Headlines!

The problem centers around switch window switch modules in the driver’s door that may short out if exposed to rain or other liquids. It’s a problem a number of other manufacturers have experienced over the last several years, and has proven particularly difficult to resolve, Honda also having to re-recall some models after an initial fix proved ineffective.


GM Rolls Out Another Six Recalls for 717,000 Vehicles

Maker's recall woes drag on.

by on Jul.23, 2014

The Chevy Camaro is one of the many vehicles targeted by the six new GM recalls.

After a brief reprieve – and hints that the worst of its safety problems had ended – General Motors has announced another six recalls collectively covering more than 700,000 cars, trucks and crossovers.

The latest move brings to more than 26 million the total number of vehicles GM has recalled since the beginning of the year. And when added to the service actions announced by competitors as varied as Ford, BMW and Toyota, the industry overall is fast approaching the 45 million mark, well surpassing the previous record, set in 2004, when 34.1 million vehicles were called back for safety problems.

Keeping You in the Know!

GM officials tried to put a positive spin on the latest action, global safety czar Jeff Boyer asserting that this goes to “signify how we’ve enhanced our approach to safety.”

But the seven new recalls also come as something of a setback for a company whose reputation had already taken a hammering during the first half of the year. By late June, GM officials had been dropping strong hints that they had largely addressed all the company’s outstanding safety problems.


Nearly Every GM Model Targeted for Recall This Year

Maker hits 54 separate recalls in just six months.

by on Jul.01, 2014

One of the very few new GM vehicles not recalled this year: the 2014 Chevrolet Equinox.

The numbers are daunting: 54 separate recalls in just six months impacting nearly 26 million vehicles sold in the U.S., nearly 29 million worldwide. For General Motors that works out to one separate recall nearly every three days. It has a record for any individual manufacturer, and has pushed the overall U.S. auto industry to an all-time record, manufacturers collectively recalling about 39 million vehicles in just six months, 20% more than the previous peak set for all of 2004.

When GM’s recall frenzy began, back in mid-February, with the first recall related to faulty ignition switches, senior executives like CEO Mary Barra were quick to point out that the problems were largely focused on products built by the “Old GM,” before the maker’s 2009 bankruptcy, such as the now abandoned Chevrolet Cobalt. If anything, newer models, such as the 2014 Chevy Impala, they stressed, were winning rave reviews and endorsements from the likes of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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But while GM’s recall frenzy continues to sweep up older products – including this week’s callback of 6.8 million vehicles dating back to 1997 for “unintended ignition key rotation” – a growing number of new models are also being targeted. In fact, a search of GM and federal recall records by shows that only three of more than three dozen General Motors products, along with a few model variants, have so far not been subject to recall in 2014.

The only key models not among the list of 54 recalls are: (more…)

Op-Ed: Assessing Detroit’s Brand Addiction

Why the good cop/bad cop game isn’t working anymore.

by on Jun.30, 2014

A 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, one of the GM vehicles covered by the maker's ignition switch recall.

Does the game of good cop/bad cop still work in Detroit?  What happens when the bad cop (General Motors) keeps making bad decisions, and the good cop (Chevrolet) has no authority and no voice of its own?

In mid-March, the bad cop tried to dig out of its hole as new GM CEO Mary Barra met with reporters to discuss recent product recalls.  “I want to start by saying how sorry personally and how sorry General Motors is for what has happened,” she said in reference to the accidents linked to faulty ignition switches.

Your Opinions Matter!

I think we can all agree with Barra’s framing: this is a GM problem.  Specifically, the inability of the company’s bureaucracy to deal with the ignition switch issue that was uncovered as early as 2001.  One can study many things in this case, from GM’s internal crisis response to product quality to governance issues.  What leapt to mind for me was GM’s devotion to being a “house of brands” that tries to isolate crises to a specific marque, or to the corporate level when the problem is found in multiple brands.


No Cap to GM Victims’ Compensation Fund – Anyone Injured, Killed Eligible

Thousands could receive “prompt” payouts, says program’s administrator.

by on Jun.30, 2014

GM victims' fund czar Kenneth Feinberg.

There will be no limit to the amount of money available for a new victims’ compensation program set up to cover those injured or killed due to crashes caused by the faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles, announced Kenneth Feinberg, the new program’s administrator.

The program, to be funded by GM, will begin taking claims from victims or their families on August 1st, has been designed to deliver “prompt” payment for those considered eligible, said Feinberg during a news conference in Washington, D.C. He noted that the voluntary program will not provide for punitive damages but could still deliver compensation running up to $7 million or beyond based on a series of hypothetical situations Feinberg outlined.

We'll Keep You Up-to-Date!

Significantly, the program will be open even to those who had previously settled a lawsuit with GM due to an ignition switch crash. And, Feinberg noted, “Any contributing negligence of the driver, intoxications, speeding, texting, will be irrelevant under this program. This is about GM and ignition switches…not anything about the driver.”