Transcript: Sen. Dan Coats’s Q&A with GM CEO Mary Barra on the ignition switch recall

Partial transcript of Sen. Dan Coats’s (R-Indiana) Q&A with General Motors CEO Mary Barra on “Examining the GM Recall and NHTSA’s Defect Investigation Process”. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance’s hearing was held on April 2, 2014:

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana):
…Ms. Barra, yesterday – correct me if I’m wrong – but I believed that you said GM – you did say that you hired Mr. Feinberg to investigate the matter but you also did not commit to sharing the results of that investigation with the public and the Congress, instead saying – I think I’m quoting you correctly – you’ll share what’s appropriate. After a night’s sleep on that question, is that still your position or do you think it’ll be appropriate to share everything Mr. Feinberg discovered with us and with the public?

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:
Well, first of all, I would like to add to that. What the specific question I was asked was the findings from Mr. Valukas’s study. He’s doing the complete investigation – the external investigation of what happened over this more than a decade period.

And when I said we would share what appropriate – we will share everything and anything that’s related to safety of our vehicles, that’s related to the safety of this incident. We’ll share that with the customers. We’ll share that with you, with our regulators. If we’ve learned things that are broader from a safety perspective, we will share that.

The only thing and the reason why I used “what is appropriate” is if there’s an issue of competitiveness because we have opened up everything Mr. Valukas, that would be something that we would, again, if there is a safety issue, we would override on the safety side. But other competitive issues and then also as an employer, we have a responsibility on privacy to some of our employees as part of the employment agreement; I have to respect that as well.

But clearly, I appreciate the opportunity to clarify this. Anything remotely related to safety of vehicles or anything that could improve the process, we could have done better with NHTSA will readily be shared in a very transparent process.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana):
I’m glad you clarified that because I think it raised concerns with all of us relative to that.

So just to make the record clear, anything related to the safety issue will be shared with the public and with the Congress?

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:
Absolutely.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana):
Were you aware of this problem when you were offered the Chairmanship – the CEO position at GM?

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:
I became aware of the recall on Jan. 31st. I was aware in late December that there was analysis going on on a Cobalt but I didn’t even know what the part was.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Indiana):
Well, whether you like it or not, you’ve become the face of the problem but hopefully also the face of the solution. But it is important that I think we understand what your role was during the 33 years and more importantly than that that the investigation point out just who knew what and when did they know it. I would suggest to the Chair that perhaps a follow-up subcommittee hearing potentially involve those who held leadership in key positions in GM during the timeframe that we’re looking at here. And that would include some government officials also, since it owned the company – 60% of the company – for a considerable period of time.

…I say that because I think we need to hear from people who had the key positions in GM that perhaps had knowledge of this and made a decision either on a cost basis or for whatever reason to come before the committee and explain their role in this rather than dumping the whole issue on its new CEO.

But again, as I said, you’ve taken on this duty and like many before you, like Presidents of the United States, what is anticipated that your role will be turns out to be something very, very different. But we’re going to need your complete cooperation as we work through this difficult issue.

But I think also I would suggest to the Chair, Vice Chair, that we seriously consider bringing before us those who were in positions of responsibility when these decisions were made.

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