General Motors CEO Mary Barra said she is relatively confident the maker won’t see a repeat of the problems that led to the long delay in recalling 2.6 million vehicles due to a defective ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths.
Barra said GM is wrapping up its own internal review of safety-related problems – which have so far this year led to 32 separate recalls involving about 15 million vehicles. “We’ve been digging pretty deep,” she said, but the maker doesn’t see anything as serious as the ignition switch problem which has, among other things, triggered a Justice Department investigation and a record fine levied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Seventy percent of the recalls involved products that are no longer in production,” noted Barra, who said GM’s own investigators have taken an extensive look at potential problems and the company’s employees have also come forward with information of potential issues.
The switch problem stands by itself, Barra said during a press conference prior to the company’s annual meeting. “We dug pretty deep. It was a unique series of mistakes done over a long period of time,” she said.
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Barra also said GM does not expect to fire or discipline any additional employees in connection with the ignition switch issue. Last week, Barra announced the dismissal of 15 employees and the disciplining of five others who failed to act to prevent the defective ignition switch problem.
(GM fires 15, disciplines 5, for handling of ignition switch problem. Click Here for the full story.)
“Repeatedly, individuals failed to disclose critical pieces of information that could have fundamentally changed the lives of those impacted by a faulty ignition switch,” Barra told shareholders. “If this information had been disclosed, I truly believe the company would have dealt with this matter appropriately.”
The new CEO attempted to put a positive spin on GM’s future, suggesting “We’ve dramatically improved our quality over the last couple of years.”
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“We are very much focused on doing great brands,” she added, later telling shareholders that, “GM is changing rapidly for the better.”
In her prior position, Barra led GM’s global product development operations, and a number of products developed under her watch, such as the new Chevrolet Impala, have been garnering strongly positive reviews.
GM’s new Chairman Tim Solso was among those who gave Barra a thumbs-up, saying she and her team had the complete confidence of the company’s Board of Directors, and “will lead General Motors to make the necessary changes.”
In an unusually swift, 45-minute shareholders meeting, Barra told investors, “GM is in a position to be stronger than ever,” adding that, “Today GM is a very good company. Tomorrow we could be a great company.”
Echoing comments she made during a company town hall meeting last week, Barra insisted that GM’s employees are eager to overcome the mistakes of the past and create an internal culture than fosters a sense of customer service and accountability.
The meeting attracted just 29 shareholders this year – but it also drew a handful of demonstrators from the “GM Recall Survivors Network,” including family members who lost loved ones in ignition switch-related crashes.
GM plans to formally announce details of a compensation fund for victims of the switch problem in the coming weeks. It is being managed by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw victims funds connected to the 9/11 attacks and the BP Gulf oil spill.