GM CEO Mary Barra apologizes for recall delay

The new CEO of General Motors apologized Tuesday for the company's failure to recall more than a million vehicles until years after it learned they had a potentially deadly defect.

That defect is now linked to at least 12 deaths.

Also Tuesday, a veteran GM engineer was put in charge of safety, which means he will be responsible for future recalls.

Meeting with print reporters Tuesday, GM's CEO Mary Barra admitted the company took too long to issue the recall.

"I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again," she said.

"Something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened," she said.

Jack Nerad is an analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

"I think that's an unprecedented step to apologize the way Mary Barra did," he said. "They are pulling out all the stops to say, 'Hey, this thing is going to end.'"

Barra also named Jeff Boyer, a 40-year veteran of GM, to head up global vehicle safety for the company.

"This is a big company and problems have a tendency to be buried in bureaucracy. Appointing somebody whose key job is to keep track of safety is an important step," said Nerad.

GM has admitted to knowing that faulty ignition switches could cause engines to shut down and power steering and airbags not to work. Yet the company did not issue a recall for 13 years. A 2011 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the Chevrolet Cobalt had the highest fatality rates of the best-selling cars in its class.

"One thing to remember about this is that many people who were at the pre-bankruptcy General Motors are still high-ranking officials in the current General Motors. Some people have the potential to be tainted by this," Nerad said.

GM's lawyers were on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Hearings are expected to be held sometime in the next few weeks, and Barra says she plans to be there and to testify.

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General Motors Recalls chart
CBS

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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