Former GM CEO Thinks Congress Would Have Gone Easier On Him Over Ignition Recalls

In the short time that she’s been CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra has repeatedly been called before federal lawmakers and investigators to answer for the car company’s record-shattering recalls, including the ignition-related problems that went ignored for more than a decade. But her predecessor at the GM CEO gig says he probably wouldn’t have received such tough interrogations from Congress.

Dan Akerson had only been in the CEO seat at GM since Sept. 2010 when he stepped down at the beginning of 2014. He’d been on the board of the car company before that, but his professional experience had been at companies like Nextel and MCI.

Meanwhile, Barra is a lifer not just in the auto industry, but specifically at GM. She not only began working at the car maker when she was 18, she also got her undergraduate degree from General Motors Institute.

It’s that difference between the career businessman drafted to help a bailed-out automaker and a company veteran who somehow didn’t notice all the problems until after she inherited them that Akerson believes would have led to less-harsh questioning from Congress.

“I think it would have been easier for me to defend the company, because quite frankly I thought Mary got treated a bit unfairly by virtue of, ‘You’ve been with the company 30 years. Why didn’t you change things?’” explains Akerson, according to the Detroit News. “I could have said, ‘Hey, look, we had to change 30 things. This one dates back to eight, 10 years ago.’ It’s a little unfair, but life isn’t fair, and you own the problem.”

Akerson has only praise for the way that Barra has responded to the numerous recalls and queries from Congress.

“I was proud that the team faced the facts, brutal as they were, and I think they formulated a plan of recovery and I think that’s something to be proud of,” he said. “I can’t think of a better leader than Mary.”