GM Admits Incompetence In Ignition Debacle, Denies Cover-Up

GM CEO Mary Barra testifying before Congress earlier this year.

GM CEO Mary Barra testifying before Congress earlier this year.

This morning, General Motors CEO Mary Barra discussed the findings of the car maker’s internal report on an ignition switch defect that went without a recall for more than a decade and has resulted in at least 13 deaths. The company’s findings claim that while GM screwed up big-time, there was no attempt by executives to cover the problem up.

In a speech before GM employees at the company’s Tech Center in Warren, MI, on Thursday morning, Barra described the investigator’s report as “brutally tough” and “troubling” and confessed that there was a fundamental failure to meet customers’ needs.

Barra, who had been with GM for three decades before being elevated to the CEO position earlier this year, said that there were certain employees involved who exhibited a “pattern of incompetence and neglect” by failing to disclose relevant information, allowing the defect to go without a recall even after it was fixed in 2007.

“Experienced engineers, with responsibility for safety, didn’t understand that the airbags would not deploy if the ignition switch changed position,” said Barra.

However, the report claims that there was no conspiracy or cover-up orchestrated by GM executives that kept the recall of millions of vehicles from happening. Barra says that those with knowledge of the defect and the subsequent botched fix — which failed to update the part number, resulting in safe and defective ignition switches commingling in the GM inventory — made no effort to alert top GM officials of the problem.

As a result, 15 people have been fired from the car company.

“Some were removed because of what we consider misconduct or incompetence,” explained Barra. “Others have been relieved because they simply didn’t do enough: They didn’t take responsibility; didn’t act with any sense of urgency.”

Five other employees have been disciplined but not fired for their role in the debacle.

“With these moves, I feel we have addressed the personnel issues in this matter,” said the CEO.

The car company is launching a compensation program for those who were injured — and the families of those killed — in the crashes tied to the ignition defect. More details on that here.

“This is not just another business crisis for GM,” admitted Barra. “We aren’t simply going to fix this and move on. We are going to fix the failures in our system – that I promise… And we are going to do the right thing for the affected parties.”