Barra vows 'world class process' for GM vehicle safety

Barra: "I want to make it clear to our customers that you are our compass."
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DETROIT -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra vowed in videos posted on YouTube today to implement "a world class process" for vehicle safety -- her first direct message to consumers affected by GM's recall of 1.6 million cars for a defective ignition switch.

Her messages appeared in five short videos posted to the GM's YouTube site, under titles such as "Why the delay announcing the recall?" and "Is my car safe to drive?"

The videos are the latest step by GM to limit damage to its reputation by reassuring the public that it will get to the bottom of its bungled handling of the recall and avoid future safety problems.

"I want to make it clear to our customers that you are our compass. You are at the heart of everything we do," Barra says in one video. "We intend to make this recall as smooth as possible for you so that we will not let it ever happen again."

In the videos, Barra reiterates many of the messages she has delivered through communications with employees and the media. The recall includes 2003-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other compact cars and has been linked to 34 crashes and 12 deaths.

Barra assures customers that the cars subject to the recall are safe to drive as long as owners don't add objects to the manufacturer-issued key ring. GM has said that added weight on the key ring could allow the switch to slip into accessory mode, which would shut off the engine and deactivate the airbags.

GM has acknowledged that engineers discovered the problem as early as 2001 and that it took too long to recall the cars despite numerous reports of problems and fatal crashes.

"Clearly the fact that it took over 10 years indicates that we have work to do to improve our process," Barra said in one video. She said that an internal investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, will help GM avoid future missteps.

"We plan to change whatever processes we need to to make sure we have a world class process as it relates to vehicle safety," she said, adding that GM's goal is to have "the vehicles on the road."

Barra will be in the spotlight next week, when she is scheduled to testify before U.S. House and Senate panels about the recall.


You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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