Recall Response Will Help Drive GM Reputation, Barra Says

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra told employees the company’s reputation will be driven by how it handles a recall of 1.6 million cars over a defect linked to 13 deaths.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, “has acted without hesitation” to address the recall in the past few weeks, Barra said in a note today on a website for employees of the Detroit-based company. “We have much more work ahead of us.”

Barra said she’s leading a group of senior executives monitoring progress on the recall. GM has also started an internal probe to provide an “unvarnished report on what happened,” she said.

“What is important is taking great care of our customers and showing that it really is a new day at GM,” Barra said.

The company wants to improve so its customers don’t experience a similar recall again, Barra said. Other steps taken include coordinating with suppliers to speed the availability of replacement parts.

U.S. regulators are investigating why it took GM years to recall the eight affected models, including 2005-2007 versions of the Chevrolet Cobalt, after learning about defects related to the ignition switch.

The company said key rings that are too heavy or jarring can cause the switches to slip out of the run position, causing the engines to shut off and a crash-sensing algorithm to misfire in a way that deactivates air bags.

GM initially recalled only the Cobalt and Pontiac G5 on Feb. 13. On Feb. 25, it added the 2003-2007 Saturn Ion, the 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHR and Pontiac Solstice and the 2007 Saturn Sky. It’s also recalling the 2006-06 Pontiac Pursuit in Canada and the 2007 Opel GT in Europe.

“The vehicles we make today are the best in memory and I’m confident that they will do fine, on their own merits,” Barra said. “Our company’s reputation won’t be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem going forward.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net Romaine Bostick