News Column

GM Won't Fire Any More Over Delayed Recalls

June 27, 2014

Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press

June 27--General Motors CEO Mary Barra said she doesn't plan to fire any more employees over the delayed recall of cars with defective ignition switches, but she declined to say whether criminal charges are warranted in connection with the crisis.

"That's up to the courts," Barra said about possible criminal charges. She made the statements today in a live interview with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today" show. The interview was conducted in Detroit at GM headquarters.

It was Barra's first television interview since the ignition switch recall in February. The defective ignition switches have been tied to 13 deaths and more than 50 crashes. The ignitions can be bumped out of the "on" position and into the "accessory" position, cutting power to the steering, engine and air bags. She said she does not believe there was a cover-up.

Barra denied that cost was the reason a car recall to fix the switches was delayed for a decade. Rather silos of information prevented people from recognizing the extent of the problem and coming forward.

"People did not understand the safety aspects," Barra said, and it will never happen again. Now, employees take notes in safety meetings; she gets copies of the notes and reviews them.

"If I could turn back the clock, I would, but I can't," said the 30-year GM veteran who became CEO in January. The first of many recalls of vehicles with defective ignition switches was in February.

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When "Today" host Lauer asked whether she was named the auto industry's first female CEO mainly to soften the blowback in this scandal, Barra said, "It is absolutely not true."

Barra said she is determined to regain public trust and change the culture and processes at GM. It is a big task in a company that already recalled more vehicles so far this year than it sold in all of 2013. There might be more recalls as Barra raises employees' urgency to respond to safety problems.

She also stressed that plans to compensate victims extend to survivors of crashes, not just the families of the 13 people identified as having lost their lives in one of the defective vehicles. The number of deaths attributed to the defect could rise.

Kenneth Feinberg, the expert GM hired to create a compensation fund for victims, will outline his plan on Monday, according to sources familiar with the plan.

He will hold a news conference Monday morning in Washington, D.C. No GM executives are expected to be present.

Greg Gardner contributed.


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Original headline: GM CEO Mary Barra says there will be no more firings over recall

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