DETROIT -- In Mary Barra's first public remarks on General Motors' deadly ignition switch defect 31/2 months ago, the CEO declared that GM's reputation "won't be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem."
Now it's walk-the-walk time.
With the story of what went wrong laid out in painful detail in its internal report released this month, GM is setting out to make good on Barra's promise never to let another deadly flaw slip through.
The company is in the early stages of an overhaul of its safety protocols, moving on some 90 fixes prescribed in the report from outside attorney Anton Valukas and GM's May consent decree with safety regulators. The internal moves should get a bright spotlight Wednesday when Barra returns to Capitol Hill, along with Valukas, for a second round of questioning by a House oversight committee.
Most changes target specific communication breakdowns that allowed the defective switch to linger for a decade and contribute to at least 13 deaths, despite passing under the noses of dozens of engineers, lawyers and safety officials.
One remedy: monthly meetings between engineers and lawyers to hash over potential defect trends in specific technical areas, such as power steering. Another remedy: new protocols to determine when news of a potential defect should be elevated to the global safety chief -- and, if warranted, the CEO.
Taken as a whole, the changes represent Job One in Barra's broader task of fixing a culture that the Valukas report found to be light on accountability and heavy on bureaucracy.
During her first visit to Washington in early April, Barra insisted that GM had morphed from a "cost culture" to a "customer culture," in which safety comes first. But the battery of fixes prescribed by regulators and the Valukas report highlights just how much further GM has to go.