Apr 02, 2014
By Jane Brown
The CEO of General Motors has publicly apologized for faulty ignition switches in 2.6 million vehicles that have been linked to 13 deaths, including one in Canada. Mary Barra offered the apology before a U.S. congressional committee where she tried to answer questions about the problem switches found mostly in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions. “There will be times when there will be material or a part that doesn’t meet this exact specification,” Barra explained calmly, “but after analysis and looking at the performance, the safety, the durability, the reliability, the functionality, it will be okay.” This explanation did not go over well with Texas Republican Joe Barton, who called what she was saying “gobbledygook”.
Barra became chief executive in January and almost immediately found herself thrust into one of the biggest product safety crises U.S. automakers have ever seen. Following her appearance at the committee, Barra explained, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure we provide the greatest support possible to our customers, as it relates to communicating to them. We have a dedicated website. We put more than a hundred people in our customer call centre to answer their questions. We’ve communicated broadly the vehicle is safe to drive based on our engineering and testing. If you have the key or the ring and also if someone is uncomfortable with the vehicle, we’re providing loaners free of charge.” Barra will face more questioning today.