GM CEO: Recall was tardy, but won’t promise liability – USA TODAY
DETROIT — General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the automaker didn’t move fast enough on the ignition switch fault that triggered the recall of 1.62 million cars worldwide and is blamed for 12 deaths in 31 crashes.
“Clearly this took too long,” she said in a group interview at GM headquarters here Tuesday.
“We will fix our process,” she vowed so that it doesn’t take a decade or more to fix the next potentially deadly fault.
But she wouldn’t promise to accept responsibility for accidents that happened before GM went through government-backed bankruptcy reorganization in 2009, nor to set up a victims’ fund.
“Right now our focus is on the customers 100%” to “make sure we repair every single one of these vehicles,” she said.
However, she said, “After the (GM internal) investigation we will do what’s right.” GM hired.
GM hired Tony Valukas, chairman of the law firm, Jenner & Block and former U.S. Attorney who probed the Lehman Bros. collapse, to lead GM’s internal investigation.
Barra noted that he “has 10 years of activity to go through” to untangle how and why decisions were made at GM that lead to the switch recall. “We won’t sacrifice accuracy for speed,” she said, “and I told him there are no sacred cows.”
She said, “No one (has been) disciplined or fired at this time.”
Barra and Mark Reuss, who replaced Barra as GM’s executive vice president of global product development, met with reporters to give GM’s analysis of the recall details, explain how GM is working to prevent future delays recognizing problems, and update the timeline for replacing faulty ignition switches.
When switches unexpectedly move from “run” to “accessory,” as has happened in some of the recalled cars, the engine stalls and power is cut to air bags and other systems.
The 1.37 million cars recalled in the U.S.: 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-07 Saturn Ion, 2006-07 Chevrolet HHR, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
Dealers will begin receiving replacement switches April 7, Barra said. They are made by Delphi, which also made the faulty switches, but GM is monitoring the production closely, she said.
Enough switches should be available for all recalled models by October, according to Barra.
Barra and Reuss both said they’ll re-emphasize to dealers that they should provide free loaner or rental cars to people nervous about driving their recalled cars before the fix is complete. GM is paying for the interim cars, so dealers shouldn’t object because of cost, Reuss said.
Some owners have complained to USA TODAY and to GM that they’ve had trouble getting the free temporary replacement vehicles.
GM previously said it expects dealers to verify that loaner vehicles aren’t themselves awaiting recall fixes of some sort.
Barra also said GM has added dozens of phone workers to make sure owners with questions about the recall or loaner cars can get through promptly.