Video: GM CEO Barra says ‘something went wrong’ – USA TODAY
In a video message to General Motors employees on Monday CEO Mary Barra offered an update on “where things stand” with the ignition switch recall and with the company’s efforts to improve its handling of such issues.
Barra noted the widening number of investigations into the switch recall and said the growing scrutiny is to be expected because “something went wrong with our process and terrible things happened.” She pledged that the company will cooperate fully with those probes.
Barra told employees that the company is conducting an “intense review” of its internal processes in the wake of the switch recall.
She also said the company is fast-tracking other pending safety reviews. She said the company is “bringing them forward and resolving them quickly.” That effort led, she said, to the three new recalls announced on Monday.
“The bottom line,” Barra said, “is we will be better because of this tragic situation if we seize the opportunity and I believe we will do just that.”
Points about the switch recall in her update included:
• GM is adding a second line at supplier Delphi to speed up production of replacement switches to fix the recalled cars.
• Letters to owners that new switches are available should begin to go out the “second week of April.”
•Dealers are “empowered to address customer concerns on a case-by-case basis,” including, she said, with loaner vehicles and “additional cash for those customers in the market for a new vehicle.”
• GM is dedicating personnel and providing training in handling customer concerns about the switch recall at call centers and other points of interaction, such as social media.
GM has recalled 1.62 million vehicles globally, including the 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalt, 2003-07 Saturn Ion, 2007 Pontiac G5, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstice, 2007 Saturn Sky and 2006-07 Chevrolet HHRs. The key in the ignition switch can be jarred into accessory mode, which shuts off the engine, disables the power steering, air bags and other electrical systems. Twelve deaths and 31 crashes so far have been linked to the defective switches.
Ira Kalb, a professor of communications at the University of Southern California, said GM is following the right process to handle the recall, but that Barra could have delivered GM’s message better in the video.
“It was pretty good, but she made a couple of mistakes,” said Kalb, who watched the video. “She said ‘terrible things happened,’ ” and I don’t think she should have used that kind of language. She also repeated herself. This could have been a lot shorter and punchier.”
Matt Friedman, partner with Tanner Friedman in Farmington Hills, said Barra’s video will help GM connect with consumers even though it felt overly scripted.
“I think what’s been missing has been face time with the public. What I saw today, with the posting of the employee video, seems to me to be a compromise between the public relations staff and the lawyers,” Friedman said. “It appears to me that there was some back-room wrangling.”
Contributing: Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Pess