GM CEO Mary Barra to testify in Capitol Hill over recall crisis

Article by Christian A., on March 24, 2014

General Motors chief executive Mary Barra is set to testify April 1 on the United States Congress about the carmaker’s handling of its current recall crisis, the US House Energy and Commerce Committee said. The hearing will occur about five weeks after GM recalled 1.6 million cars to replace faulty ignition switches which if shifted out of position could shut off the engine.

Barra will need to answer queries on why it took GM over a decade to order the repair. Her answers may have implications for GM's public image. The committee also invited David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to testify.

"Their testimony is critical to understanding what the company and NHTSA knew about the safety problems, when they knew it, and what was done about it,” Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a joint statement with Rep. Tim Murphy, chairman of the oversight subcommittee. “The problems originated long before Barra and Friedman took the helms of their respective organizations, but their actions and input now, as our investigation proceeds, will be essential to getting answers about what went wrong,” the statement said.

“We want to know if this tragedy could have been prevented and what can be done to ensure the loss of life due to safety failures like this don’t happen again.” There were questions why NHTSA failed to launch a probe into the glitch, which GM has linked to 31 crashes wherein airbags failed to deploy and 12 front-seat passengers died.

A GM spokesman remarked that Barra “welcomes the opportunity to participate in the hearing as part of GM's effort to cooperate with Congress and other authorities.” In the past two weeks, GM and NHTSA have briefed aides to the Energy and Commerce Committee on their responses to the ignition switch glitch. The committee also sent GM and NHTSA a request for documents over their handling of the issue, including all correspondence between the two entities.

Barra took over a CEO of the American auto giant on on January 15, 2014, replacing erstwhile top honcho Dan Akerson. Prior to becoming CEO at GM, Barra was executive vice president for Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. Thedore Solso succeeded Akerson as Chairman.

Barra’s stint at GM started as a co-op student in 1980. She then held various engineering and administrative positions in the company. In February 2008, Barra was named as Vice President of Global Manufacturing Engineering. Then in July 2009, she was appointed as Vice President of Global Human Resources. [source: Bloomberg]

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