GM’s Barra: Those who’ve left the company were mostly in senior or executive roles
General Motors CEO Mary Barra said Thursday the automaker is prepared to do the right thing for those who were harmed by the faulty ignition switches, and it accepts responsibility for its mistakes.
GM hired former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas to investigate why it took the company more than 10 years to recall about 2.6 million small cars with faulty ignition switches. The company says the problem has caused at least 13 deaths, but trial lawyers suing GM say the toll is at least 60.
Documents show engineers in the company knew about the problem as early as 2001.
In the wake of the investigation, 15 GM employees are no longer with the company, and some of were removed for misconduct or incompetence, she said. Disciplinary actions have been taken against five other employees.
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Well over 50 percent of those fired were executives or higher, Barra said.She also confirmed that two engineers previously placed on leave, Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, are no longer with the company.
“This is about our responsibility to act with integrity, honor and be committed to excellence,” Barra said at the outset of her remarks.
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The final report on the recall investigation is “brutally tough” and “deeply troubling,” Barra said, adding that the report found “a pattern of incompetence and neglect.” Barra said the report showed “a history of failures” that stretched over 11 years.
“From start to finish the Cobalt saga was riddled with failures that led to tragic results for many,” Barra said. “I never want to put this behind us. I want to keep this painful experience permanently in our collective memories.”
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The independent report found no conspiracy by the corporation to cover up facts, she said. “I wish I had known; the minute we knew we took action,” Barra said.
Barra said GM would act on all eight recommendations in the Valukas report “on an expedited timetable,” and added that, in the near term, there may be a few more recalls.
“Our job is to not just fix the problem. Our job must be to set a new industry standard for safety, quality and excellence,” Barra said.
GM’s shares moved higher following her comments. (Click here to get the latest GM quote.)
On Tuesday, GM apologized to families of accident victims who have been notified to bring in cars for replacement of defective ignition switches.
In a press conference that followed Barra’s remarks, a GM executive said that a compensation program has been created for those injured or who’ve lost a love one, but the size of the compensation is still to be determined.
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Barra also said the compensation program was voluntary and that people would have to make their own decisions about whether they wanted to sue the company. But she did not address repeated questions about whether GM would waive the liability shield that comes from the company’s bankruptcy reorganization.
GM has recalled 2.6 million of its most popular models to replace the defective switch. Some families who lost loved ones in fatal crashes have complained that GM should not have sent them notices to bring in cars for repairs.
—Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report