General Motors, the company preparing to exit South Australia in 2017, has a major headache in its home territory.
GM is dealing with the fallout from the recall of 1.6 million cars and revelations it kept details away from the public for years.
The top executive of General Motors has apologised for deaths linked to the delayed recall of its key small car brands, saying the company took too long to bring the cars in for repairs.
CEO Mary Barra, who is in her third month leading the company, also named a new global safety director to help prevent further recall problems.
In her first meeting with reporters since last month’s recall, Barra stopped short of saying the company would compensate families of those killed in crashes caused by faulty ignition switches. But she said GM would do what’s right for customers after it completes an internal investigation.
“I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,” she said.
Tuesday’s 50-minute meeting with reporters was part of Barra’s damage control effort as she tries to distance the GM from the pre-bankruptcy company that buried the problem in bureaucracy.
GM has admitted knowing about the problem switches for at least 11 years, yet it failed to recall the cars until last month. The company also has promised an “unvarnished” investigation and a new dedication to safety.
GM has to protect its safety reputation to keep sales from falling and cutting into earnings. The company has been profitable for 16 straight quarters since emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2009.
Barra said no one at GM has been fired or disciplined because of the recall delays, but Mark Reuss, the company’s product development chief who also spoke with reporters, said appointing a safety chief is only the beginning.
“This is the first change of things that need to change,” Reuss said.
During the meeting, Barra and Reuss appeared composed. But they often refused to answer questions, saying they wanted to wait for the results of the investigation by an outside lawyer before giving details.
Barra said GM is looking through its database for more crash deaths that could be tied to the ignition switch problem. That number is likely to rise above the 12 currently cited by the company as GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration review accident reports and consumer complaints.
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