GM CEO Still Draws Media Crush; This Time For The Wrong Reason

Apr 15 2014, 5:08pm CDT | by

It was only three months ago that General Motors' Chief Executive Mary Barra was nearly crushed by hundreds of journalists at the Detroit auto show in one of the most epic media scrums the industry has ever seen. Back then, it was curiosity about the industry’s first female chief executive that drew the hordes of media to the unveiling of an otherwise lowly pickup truck, elbowing and shoving each other to get a photo or word with the celebrated CEO.

On Tuesday afternoon, the cameras swarmed her again, but this time, it was to grill her on how the automaker has handled the recall of 2.6 million small cars with faulty ignition switches that are blamed for 13 deaths. It was a regular slugfest, with cameramen shouting and jostling for position as Barra tried to exit the stage after a speech at an industry conference in New York.

“Guys, please don’t push each other,” Barra pleaded, as Mark Reuss, GM’s global product development chief, stood with arms outstretched, pushing his hips and shoulders back to try to protect his boss from being trampled. Barra finally ducked into a doorway vestibule, where she could safely stop to answer questions. Standing next to her in the same vestibule, I realized how earthquake victims are able to survive in a pocket of air under a collapsed building.

Barra said GM’s internal investigation is still expected to take 45 to 60 days (which would mean late May), and that the company can’t answer all the questions from government investigators until that internal inquiry is completed. She also said it will take a few months for all 2.6 million affected cars to be repaired, saying its supplier, Delphi, is working quickly to ramp up production of the necessary parts. “We are working as quickly as we can. They will be perfect parts — 100 percent tested. The first replacement parts started shipping to dealers last week.

During her speech, Barra said GM will use a new approach in its product development organization to ensure that its vehicles are the safest in the industry. The new global product integrity team will build on the formula and attention to detail GM has used in recent years to lead the industry in vehicle dynamics, ride and handling. “We will mirror this approach to focus on safety performance,” she said, adding that the group will work closely with GM’s new vice president of global safety, Jeff Boyer.

Barra also tried to steer some attention away from the recall, which has dominated headlines about GM almost from the day she took over as CEO in January. “I think it’s fair to say that much of the progress we have made in the last two months has been overshadowed by the intensity of the recall coverage – but in fact there has been a lot of good news to report,” Barra said.

She deflected most questions about the investigation, including why GM decided to suspend, with pay, two engineers involved with the ignition switch on the Chevrolet Cobalt and other cars dating back to 2005. “Let’s be really really clear. These are real people with real careers. I am personally dedicated to making sure we have the true facts of what happened… If there are issues that need to be addressed, we will. I am not going to speculate because I am focused on the truth.” Barra said “we agonized over that decision,” but said it was right for the company.

As for the recent Saturday Night Live skit satirizing her testimony before Congress on April 1 and 2, Barra said: “I have watched SNL for most of my life. It’s important to retain your sense of humor. But this is a very serious situation.”

As for her judgment of Kate MacKinnon’s impersonation: “I think that’s better left to people other than me.”

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Second MERS case reported in Qatar
Doha, Oct 23 (IANS) A 43-year-old man in Qatar has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the second confirmed case of the deadly virus in 10 days, media reported Thursday. The patient had...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Two people die in Pakistan bomb blast
Islamabad, Oct 23 (IANS) At least two people were killed and 12 others injured in an explosion that took place in Pakistan's Balochistan province Thursday, media reported. The bomb was planted on a motorcycle, Dawn...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Trott extends contract with Warwickshire till 2017
London, Oct 23 (IANS) England batsman Jonathan Trott, whose mental issues led to his abrupt departure from last winter's Ashes tour, has confirmed his successful comeback to competitive cricket by signing a new three-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap big movers in BWF rankings
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings released Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Alvin Stardust dead
London, Oct 23 (IANS) English singer Alvin Stardust died after a short illness. He was 72. Stardust's manager confirmed the news about his demise Thursday, reports mirror.co.uk. He was recently diagnosed with...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Indian man reunited with family after 40 years
Dubai, Oct 23 (IANS) An Indian man, who had disappeared from his hometown in Kerala nearly 40 years ago, has been found by his family at a hospital in Dubai in the UAE, a newspaper report said. Now in his 60s, Abdulla...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap, Saina rise in world rankings
Kala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest released Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Flintoff signs for Big Bash side Brisbane Heat
Brisbane, Oct 23 (IANS) Former England captain and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who retired from international cricket in 2009, Wednesday confirmed that he will play for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League (BBL) this...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
OPEC daily basket price falls again
Vienna, Oct 23 (IANS/WAM) The basket of 12 crude oils of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) closed at $81.94 a barrel Wednesday compared to $82.09 Tuesday, the OPEC Secretariat said. The new OPEC...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Lopez to sign multi-million dollar deal?
Los Angeles, Oct 23 (IANS) Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is reportedly in the final stages of securing a multi-million dollar deal to perform in Las Vegas. The 45-year-old is being offered $350,000 per show at The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla