Under fire: GM's Barra deflects hard questions
WASHINGTON (AP) - General Motors CEO Mary Barra didn't squirm on the hot seat Tuesday.
On the job less than three months, she
calmly answered or deflected tough questions from a congressional committee about faulty parts responsible for at least 13 deaths and the recall of 2.6 million cars.
frustrated lawmakers by fending off questions, saying she
was awaiting the results of an internal GM investigation.
didn't know why GM
waited more than a decade to recall cars it knew had defective ignition switches.
didn't know who was responsible for the decisions that delayed the recall.
But experts on corporate damage control said she
didn't have much choice and gave her
high marks for her
performance on the hot seat.
apologized for GM's slowness in warning customers about the problems and promised to change the automaker's culture to put a new emphasis on safety.
"Barra held her ground, claiming that today's General Motors is a different company from the one whose corporate culture allowed this issue to fester for a decade," said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director Kelley Blue Book.
"not to have any answers" after about three months as CEO was unsatisfactory, Ken Rimer said in the hallway outside the hearing room.
But some lawmakers appeared somewhat more sympathetic to Barra, who was thrust into a crisis after becoming the first woman CEO of a major automaker in January.
In 33 years at GM, Barra worked in engineering, communications and human resources.
a second-generation GM employee: Her
father was a GM die maker for four decades.
Not everything went smoothly for the new CEO Tuesday, who flew commercial to the hearing.
struggled to explain how GM
could continue to use parts that didn't meet its own specifications.
tried to draw a distinction between parts that didn't meet specs and those that were defective and dangerous, Rep.
Dan Hill, president of a Washington firm that advises clients on public relations and crisis management, said Barra erred by contrasting today's safety-conscious GM with the belt-tightening GM that sought bankruptcy protection in 2009.
"Barra threw the old GM under the bus by saying that the previous company that she grew up in and held executive positions in was based on a 'cost culture' as opposed to a 'customer first' culture," Hill said, noting that the implicit criticism of her predecessors could be used as ammunition in lawsuits against GM.
But some corporate image experts praised Barra for seizing the initiative by announcing that GM has hired Kenneth Feinberg - who handled the fund for the victims of 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP oil spill - to explore ways to compensate victims of accidents in the GM cars.
Barra didn't commit GM to setting up such a fund.