Transcript: General Motors CEO Mary Barra’s press briefing remarks on the ignition switch recall – April 1, 2014

Partial transcript of remarks by Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, on the ignition switch recall following her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on April 1, 2014:

Again, as we deal with this, we know there’s been a lot of lives lost and lives impacted by this situation. So first and foremost, we want to reiterate that General Motors is sorry. When I say that, I say that on behalf of the company, the men and women of General Motors, as well as myself.

Second, we are doing everything we can to make sure we provide the greatest support possible to our customers. As it relates to communicating to them, we’re going to dedicate a website. We’ve put more than 100 people on our customer call center to answer their question. We’ve communicated broadly that the vehicle is safe to drive based on our engineering testing if you have the key or the ring. And also if someone is uncomfortable with the vehicle, we’re providing loaners or rental vehicles free of charge.

We want to learn as much as we can from this situation. It’s a tragic situation, but if we can learn and we can make a better process, that is our goal. We’ve hired Anton Valukas to do that, and he has – there are no holds barred in the investigation that he does. And we will hold ourselves accountable.

And then finally, we will be transparent. As we learn anything that we can bring forward that is going to improve the safety of our vehicles and make the whole industry better, we will definitely share all those things and we will be transparent.

Question:
[Inaudible]

GM CEO Mary Barra:
I think people – there’s very technical engineering terms. I think the important thing for people to understand is we’re going to make sure all parts and such systems on our vehicle and the entire vehicle is safe, is meeting its performance, is meeting all of the aspects that are important. That’s what’s important. We are holding ourselves accountable to make sure our vehicle is as safe as possible and we have an unyielding standard.

There’s very specific things that relate from an engineering specification term that I think is misunderstood.

Question:
…You met with family members that lost loved ones yesterday. I’m wondering what you heard from them and what you’ve said to them in response.

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Well, I – this was a meeting that they asked for to get closure. I met with them. We agreed to keep the meeting private, as I need to respect their wishes.

Question:
…When you look back to 2005, GM was already starting to struggle financially. It was at junk bond status, and some are questioning whether or not GM’s financial state you believe played into the decision not to order a recall when you knew there was an issue. Do you believe from what you know now that the financial state of GM back then was a contributing factor?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Look, we’ve hired Anton Valukas to do a complete investigation. We’ll learn from that. We are definitely moving to a culture that is focused on the consumer, that is focused on the customer, that is focused on high quality and safety, and that’s my direction and that’s what we’re doing today.

Question:
…Do those families and consumers deserve more specific answers from you today? There were many questions that you could not respond to. Don’t they need more now from you?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
As soon as I have the information – that’s why we’ve launched an internal investigation. Remember, we are looking at something that happened over more than a decade, and it’s a very complex situation. We need to make sure we have the facts and we won’t sacrifice accuracy for speed. When we have that information, we will share with the regulators, with the legislators, with the customers. We will do that.

Question:
[Inaudible]

GM CEO Mary Barra:
First of all, you didn’t have my career timeline quite correct. But I became aware of an issue that was being examined. I didn’t know of the specific issue in December of ’13, late December of ’13. Became aware of this specific incident on Jan. 31st after the recall team made its decision.

Question:
[Inaudible]

GM CEO Mary Barra:
We can provide that outline so you’d get the right timeline. When decisions are made, there’s a technical team that goes through and makes the analysis of the situation and it is – in the past has specifically not been covered with senior leaders. It was done in a technical level so there was no influence. However, that was when the company had more of a cost culture than what I would say now is a quality and customer focused culture around safety.

So going forward, when we look at any incidents, they will be reviewed with Mark Reuss, who’s our product chief, our executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. And they will also be reviewed with me when I meet with Jeff Boyer on a monthly basis…

Question:
[Inaudible]

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Again, I know what I’m focused on today. I can’t speak to –

Question:
You’ve been with the company now for over 30 years at GM yet you claimed that never once did this ever cross your desk in the last decade. What do you say to the families? How do you explain that to them?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Again, there’s a specific group that goes through and looks at when there’s an incident – a team that then raises it to a cross-functional group within the product development and then goes through a technical team that makes that decision. I was never a part of that process on this issue.

Question:
…You’re now have to clean up this mess?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
It angers me that we had a situation that took over a decade to correct, and I am working day and night to make sure that we correct this issue, we learn from it, and it never happens again. And I will work day and night to make that happen.

Question:
[Inaudible]…Jim Federico, then who worked very closely with you, who you promoted, who headed this investigation for more than a year. He was in charge of this. How did you not know about that? What does that say about communications?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Again, the process was worked – it kept the technical team working on that and those issues weren’t covered. We’ve changed that now, and I’m telling you the truth.

Question:
[Inaudible]

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Again, we are doing a complete investigation with Tony Valukas. There was a document production that was done over a very short period of time. We want to have an independent person. That’s what Tony brings to the company. And he’s going to do a complete investigation, and that’s what I’m looking for across the organization.

Question:
Going forward, what kind of platitude are you going to give Ken Feinberg?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
Ken Feinberg, as you know, is an expert in this area. He has tremendous experience, and we are going to have our first meeting with him on Friday. And we are going to examine a wide range of opportunities and leverage his expertise.

Question:
…release the investigation report when it’s finished?

GM CEO Mary Barra:
I will share and be transparent with those items that are appropriate to share. There may be – everything that’s appropriate to share, everything that’s related to consumer safety, everything that’s related to the customer…

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