It's been baptism by fire for Mary Barra.
Less than three months into her job as CEO, the longtime General Motors GM executive found herself enduring two days of testimony on Capitol Hill this week – trying to explain to lawmakers why GM only recently announced the recall of some compact cars with a defective ignition switch – a flaw the automaker was apparently aware of as far back as 2001.
The defect has been blamed for several dozen crashes and at least 13 deaths – and GM has recalled 2.2 million vehicles in the past two months to repair the flaw.
"Today's GM will do the right thing," Barra told the House committee on Tuesday. She also said GM will take a $750 million first quarter charge to account for the ignition switch recalls and several other recalls – and that the company under her leadership is “focused on safety.”
Industry analysts, meanwhile, said Barra was able to hold her ground during the difficult questioning.
“She noted that GM had already commissioned a full, outside investigation into the issue," Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and analyst at Kelley Blue Book, tells Benzinga, “but many lawmakers were not satisfied with that as an answer to questions about what did GM know and when did it know about the problem. Barra promised that GM would not make the same decisions in the future that it had in the past.”
Alec Gutierrez, a KBB senior analyst, still wonders why GM is only now addressing a decade-old design flaw.
“Of the most damning evidence, that some within GM approved of redesigning the ignition switch without changing the part number,” he wrote. “Ms. Barra commented that she found this practice unacceptable and would do whatever necessary to ensure the series of events that led us to where we are today never happens again.”
Gutierrez also wonders if consumers will accept Barra's word on GM's newfound focus on safety. But he also notes the company's bottom line appears to remain sound.
“GM saw retail sales volume improve by seven percent this month,” he adds, “outpacing the overall industry average growth pace. While this process is far from over, Mary Barra looks to be committed to getting GM through this crisis by focusing on quality and transparency in a way that they never have previously.”
© 2022 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
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