By on June 6, 2014

Mary Barra at 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Automotive News reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra delivered a 15-minute blistering speech before those in attendance and online regarding the Valukas report, which detailed the how and why a defective ignition switch first brought to life in 2001 led to the February 2014 recall of 2.6 million vehicles so equipped and the firestorm that followed. In her words, “nobody took responsibility” for the problems, that “there was no demonstrated sense of urgency” during the time period to fix the problems that still haunt the automaker. Barra added that she would never put the recall crisis behind GM, to “keep this painful experience” permanently upon the head of the corporation so as nothing like this would ever occur once more. At the end, she proclaimed her belief in GM and its employees in being able to face “the truth” about itself, and that the General overall was better than its previous actions.

After Barra dropped the mic, the automaker announced 15 individuals with ties to the ignition switch recall were fired. Of those no longer employed, seven have been identified thus far:

  • Ray DeGiorgio: Engineer
  • Mike Robinson: Vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs
  • Gay Kent: General director of vehicle safety
  • Carmen Benavides: Director of field product investigations
  • William Kemp: Senior lawyer, safety
  • Gary Altman: Program engineering manager
  • Lawrence Buonomo: Senior lawyer, product liability

The remaining eight have yet to be named as of this writing.

Over in the Beltway, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce and U.S. Senate Commerce committees have called Barra and Anton Valukas for the second round of testimonies the former promised would occur once the independent investigation led by Valukas released its findings to the public. Representative Fred Upton of Michigan and Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, both chairs of their respective committees, both noted it would take time to go over the report before drawing their conclusions. McCaskill warned that she would not allow “GM leadership, or federal regulators, escape accountability” over the recall and the 47 accidents — including 13 fatalities thus far — linked to it.

Finally, Barra warned the recall parade that began in February would likely continue “in the near term,” abating “to historical levels, or slightly higher” as claimed by CFO Chuck Stevens in the conference call with analysts following Barra’s speech. She also promised that GM’s recall efforts would become “the new norm” for the automaker as it follows the CEO’s focus on customer safety.

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25 Comments on “Barra: “Nobody Took Responsibility” For Defective Ignition Switch...”


  • avatar
    GranMarkeez

    Stay tuned, folks. This is nowhere near done yet.

  • avatar

    #1 While this news is great fodder for people who hateGM and would never buy one of their vehicles, I fail to see what the big deal is. People die all the time.

    #2 The law needs to have a set price for the value of human life to stop the frivulous lawsuits. How much is a life worth?

    $1 Million?

    $2 Million?

    • 0 avatar
      phlipski

      There were 34,090 deaths from traffic accidents in 2012. That works out to a little over 93 deaths per day. GM should rightly get their butts spanked over this, but when I read about members of congress getting involved it infuriates me. If they really cared they’d do more for driver education in this country. A quick google search for “What causes traffic accidents” turns up the same 3-4 reasons. Speeding, drinking, distraction, sleeping… Equipment failure is rare.

    • 0 avatar
      an innocent man

      Depends on whose life, my kid or somebody else’s?

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      “How much is a life worth?”

      As I understand it, your insurance company values your life as expected working years left multiplied by expected salary. I encourage all who read this to do that math and think about it, dwell upon it. i.e. – the average annual wage in the US is about $44,000. The current Social Security retirement age is 67. If you die at 35 the value of your lost life (ignoring other debts and assets) is $44,000*(67-35)=$1.4 million.

      Of course, you value your life more than anyone else and you value your kids more than anyone else. The difficulty is understanding that your values aren’t generally accepted by anyone else.

      Fear of death is the primary neurosis of modern life.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Fear of death is the primary neurosis of modern life.”

        Exactly. Hence the popularity of AWD in cars (Subaru, I’m looking at you), and the unstoppable rise in health care costs.

        We’ll pay anything to live another day, especially if it only costs us another $20 copay.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @bigtruckseriesreview – You keep saying you are well educated but come up with some pretty lame comments.

      People die all of the time is easy to say if you aren’t the one kneeling in front of a loved one’s casket.

      An affluent society has the means to improve the lives of its members. The USA as a whole due to multiple factors has done a poor job in that area.

      If one looks at metrics other than average wealth or removes the 1% from the picture, the USA slots in among many 3rd world backwaters.

      I’m sure that my comments will trigger the usual Right versus left rhetoric that is a huge factor explaining why the USA is in the position it is in.

      Instead of fixing the problems present the populace and its leaders are blinded by ideology and prefer to blame.

      Sounds no different than GM.

      “NOBODY TOOK RESPONSIBILITY”

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    This is a good, strong step in the right direction. It’s a shot over the bow of the GM insiders whose office chairs are too comfortable for them to rock the boat.

  • avatar

    now if they would only apply the same housecleaning to Sales and Marketing where the corruption and incompetence runs very deep.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    How deep will this go? I think it will be very hard to believe Akerson knew nothing. I lost faith in GM many many years ago but this whole lie-fest, coupled with the bail-out makes it even moreso.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Akerson knew something and probably conspired to set up Barra as the fall guy. If Barra is able to make lemonade, and clean house and more importantly culture, then best of luck to her.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        GiddyHitch, I agree. Mary Barra was advanced because Akerson and the Board knew that the government would be a lot more forgiving about their fiasco in bailing out GM if a woman fronted GM. The new GM can blame the old GM all they want for these recalls, but when you cut through the crap, it’s still the same GM.

        In the past, we all have seen how the government beat up on the White Male and Asian Male who fronted an auto maker. And putting an African-American in charge of GM would have evoked catcalls of racism if anyone criticized GM for anything.

        So Mary Barra was voted to be the fall gal. Besides, she is a lot easier to look at that some crusty, gnarly dude.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    It’s a good day to be a GM hater…

    However, this will test the new CEO’s leadership skills in ways not previously imagined by her. I believe she’s doing a good job. Let’s hope they can continue repairing the damage that’s already been inflicted.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    Anyone that has worked in a bureaucracy is NOT SURPRISED about this. I worked for the DOD as a contractor for over 15 years and this is standard procedure. The standard procedure is to deflect, defer, defend, and deny. The top priority is not to make waves. Check the boxes, don’t make a fuss.

    The people listed above; if any of them would have taken a stand about this issue, they would have been demoted or terminated many years ago. They know that, and that’s why they didn’t make waves.

    For more on this, please follow the ever expanding documentary “Dilbert.” To people like me, it’s not a comic strip; it’s reality.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “she would never put the recall crisis behind GM”

    I like that choice of words. Too often, people and corporations put these hard lessons behind them in a forgetful manner.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Who could hate a woman with bangs?

    Anyone who thinks this will result in a sea change at GM should reflect upon the massive public support the US military now has (at least among those who get polled) as compared to the ’70s.

    This scandal will be forgotten, the VA scandal will too.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Not sure what your point is.

      If your point is that public feelings about X are seasonal, like the weather, I have to disagree.

      The perception of the U.S. military in the 1970s was that it was incompetent. People can argue one side or the other about the Vietnam war forever, but it seems like, for the first 3 or 4 years of its life, it was not well executed, at least on a strategic level.

      Post-Vietnam, there was the botched re-capture of the Mayaguez and then the incredible cluster-f**k of the aborted Iran hostage rescue mission.

      A series of well-executed missions, culminating in the 1991 Gulf War, gave the public the idea that today’s military is highly competent, notwithstanding some significant strategic errors coming from the civilian leadership like invading Iraq a second time and then assuming that someone (but not the disbanded Iraqi army) would maintain public order afterwords.

      Unresponsive bureaucracies grow up when the organization is insulated from outside pressure, either because it has a monopoly, is part of an oligopoly or is the government (combat military being the exception, because the “outside pressure” comes from its adversary who will kill it if given the chance). Post-war, GM was the leader of an oligopoly and very much a first among equals, as compared to Ford and Chrysler. So, it’s no wonder that an unresponsive, inward- looking bureaucracy took root. Ultimately, outside forces, in the form of offshore competition, came to bear on GM and the result was bankruptcy. The reason many people were so unhappy at the GM bailout is their fear that the bureaucracy would not be sufficiently reformed and the “new GM” would fail anyway, notwithstanding the expenditure of billions of public dollars.

      That’s still an open question. The best thing politicians could do for GM is to make it absolutely positively clear that GM is not “TBTF” and that the next bankruptcy will not involve a government bailout.

      Such reform is not unprecedented. The IBM of the 1960s and 1970s had a monopoly (the government even brought an antitrust suit against IBM in the early 1970s). Outside pressure in the form of the mini-computer and then the PC made much of what IBM sold obsolete. However, the company did “reinvent” itself without having to go through the meat grinder of bankruptcy and is reasonably healthy today as a competitive business.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        I meant that if the American public could digest, process and excrete such an unnecessary, ruinous and horrible experience as the Vietnam War and return to full flag-waving support of the sandbox wars in 15 years, this GM incident is barely a hiccup.

        GM is as interwoven into our history and culture as the military. And when the dust settles their execs will go back to what executive officers always do: lie, hide and let it slide. ‘Cause the pay and fringes are pretty good if you just go along.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @DC Bruce – well said.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Kenmore – Who could hate a woman with bangs? or did you mean to say “a woman that bangs”?

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    Nobody took responsibility is a mild disease in the private sector.
    Had GM gone bankrupt, the new company would have been organized more efficiently.
    Nobody took responsibility is inherent in Government and cannot be fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      You underline the point made by those above. People forget. Completely, apparently.

      GM did go bankrupt.

      Just five years ago.

      So, your point is what, exactly?

      • 0 avatar
        CapVandal

        wmba ….

        +1

        Amazing how many people don’t know that simple fact.

        Even on TTAC.

        It has occurred to me that GM would have been well served to simply change its name post bankruptcy. The brand names of their individual makes (Buick, &c) have value, but GM? Not so much. A great way to put ‘Old GM’ behind them.


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