Mary Barra's Pearl Harbor Moment: "I Never Want You To Forget" How GM Failed Customers

Jun 5 2014, 10:46am CDT | by

General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra issued a strong rebuke to employees Thursday morning, saying an independent investigation found “a pattern of incompetence and neglect” in the company’s handling of a faulty ignition switch that led to the deaths of at least 13 people.

“Our job is clear: To build high quality, safe vehicles,” Barra told them at a town hall-style meeting beamed worldwide across the company. “In this case with these vehicles, we didn’t do our job. We failed these customers. We must face up to it and learn from it. ”

Barra, chief executive since January, has led many town hall meetings during her career, but none could match the drama of Thursday’s gathering, where she shared findings of the three-month probe by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. Barra called the report “
extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling” and said “it is enormously painful to have our shortcomings laid out so vividly.”/>

But Barra told 1,200 assembled at GM’s Vehicle Engineering Center, and 220,000 employees worldwide, that they needed to hear how badly GM screwed up. “Tn fact, I never want you to forget it. This is not just another business crisis for GM. We aren’t simply going to fix this and move on.”  GM is already fixing its safety processes and the company will compensate families of those whose loved ones died or were injured, she promised. “But I never want to put this behind us. I want to keep this painful experience permanently in our collective memories. I don’t want to forget what happened because I — and I know you — never want this to happen again.”

As a result of the findings, GM said it fired 15 individuals for misconduct, incompetence or failure to take responsibility. Barra said at least half of them were executive level or higher. Five others were disciplined. Valukas’ report found no culpability on the part of Barra, Product Development Chief Mark Reuss or former Chief Executive Dan Akerson.

The company also announced that it will create a special compensation fund administered by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw claims for victims of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The size of the fund, and who will ultimately be eligible, will be decided by Feinberg, said GM President Dan Amman, who is working closely with Feinberg. So far, GM has said there are 13 deaths tied to the ignition switch issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said the number is likely to rise. While sticking with the figure 13 for now, GM said “ We’ll make public the number of fatalities and serious physical injuries as ultimately determined by Mr. Feinberg.”

The upshot of Valukas’ report is that GM engineers didn’t see the ignition switch failure as a safety issue, and failed to connect it to seemingly unrelated problems with airbags that didn’t deploy in front-end crashes.

GM did not release the report, but said NHTSA would post it on its website. More details to come when the report is made public.

, Barra said the company had fired 15 individuals for incompetence or silence, and disciplined five others for not doing enough during the 11 years that GM was investigating a

 
 
 

<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

Billiards: Bhaskar shocks Gilchrist, joins Advani in semis
Leeds, Oct 28 (IANS) For long the bridesmaid in Indian billiards, Balachandra Bhaskar, the 43-year-old from Bangalore, authored a big upset when he knocked out defending champion Peter Gilchrist 797-586 to enter the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
WHO welcomes approval of Ebola vaccine trial in Switzerland
Geneva, Oct 28 (IANS) The World Health Organisation (WHO) Tuesday welcomed the approval of a Swiss regulatory authority for a trial with an experimental Ebola vaccine at the Lausanne University Hospital. According to...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Indian in US gets 15 years in jail for backing Hezbollah
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) An Indian citizen residing illegally in the US has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for allegedly trying to provide material support to Hezbollah, a designated foreign terrorist...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Another body recovered from sunken South Korean ferry
Seoul, Oct 28 (IANS/EFE) South Korean rescue teams Tuesday recovered one of the 10 bodies still missing from the Sewol ferry which sunk off the country's southwest coast April 16 this year leaving 304 people dead, most...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Iraqi Kurdish force moves to help fight IS militants in Kobane
Baghdad, Oct 28 (IANS) A group of Iraqi Kurdish fighters, known as Peshmerga, headed Tuesday to the Syrian border town of Kobane via Turkey to help local Kurdish people who have been struggling to fend off attacks by...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Al Qaeda affiliate seizes seven villages in Syria
Beirut, Oct 28 (IANS/EFE) The Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, has seized seven villages in the northern Syrian province of Idlib over the past few hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Butler, Witherspoon to appear at Hollywood Film Awards
Los Angeles, Oct 28 (IANS) A bevy of Hollywood stars including Gerard Butler, Michael Keaton and Reese Witherspoon will appear in the Eye's inaugural Hollywood Film Awards, scheduled to take place Nov 14. CBS has...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Help Yezidis from extinction: Ravi Shankar
Bangalore, Oct 28 (IANS) Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Tuesday urged the governments of Europe, the US and India to save the thousands of Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar mountains in Iraq. "This is the one of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Salt-degraded farm soil now equals the size of France
Toronto, Oct 28 (IANS) Every day for more than 20 years, an average of 2,000 hectares of irrigated land in arid and semi-arid areas across 75 countries, including in India, has been degraded by salt, a research has...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Radiation exposure ups aggressive thyroid cancer risk
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) Nuclear power plant accidents could be devastating and researchers have now found that exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with more aggressive forms of thyroid cancer. "Our group has...
Read more on Politics Balla