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Recall Issue Overshadows GM Shareholder Meeting

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Mary Barra meets media before annual meeting (GM Photo)

Mary Barra meets media before annual meeting (GM Photo)

jeffgilbert Jeff Gilbert
Automotive reporter for WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBS Radio News....
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DETROIT (WWJ) – As protesters marched outside, GM CEO Mary Barra promised the company’s shareholders that the company has learned from the delayed ignition switch recall, and is changing.

“The attitudes and practices that allowed this failure to occur will not be tolerated.”

As Barra spoke inside, Laura Christian, who lost her daughter in a 2005 crash involving a Chevy Cobalt, was outside GM’s headquarters. She said she wanted shareholders to see the human side of the recall.

Christian, who met with Barra in Washington earlier this year, said she was not impressed.

“She came across as very scripted and very cold,” said Christian. “That was not the right message to send to any one of us.”

While Christian is considering suing GM, she says what she really wants is to make sure no parent goes through what she’s gone through.

“It’s not about the money,” Christian told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “We can’t get back what we want. We want our kids back.”

The annual meeting attracted only 29 shareholders, six fewer than last year. There were few questions about the recall. The discussion part of the meeting also dealing with issues ranging from next year’s UAW contract talks, and attempts to attract more minority dealers.

Barra again promising to do the right thing for those who were injured or lost loved ones, and again apologized.

“I know there are no words that can ease their grief and pain.”

Less than a week after the release of an internal report that was highly critical of GM’s corporate culture, Barra said that she believes GM workers are getting the message.

“They are absolutely owning the report, internalizing it. They know what this company can be.”

Prior to the meeting, Barra told reporters that she’s received emails from hundreds of GM employees, and answered each one of them.

“I just feel tremendous engagement by the employees, that they’re going to do the right thing,” said Barra. “They’re raising issues. They’re asking questions. They’re owning it.”

A few of the emails from employees raised new safety issues, says Barra, and those were passed on to the appropriate managers.

We could see a few more recalls in the coming days, but Barra says GM’s investigation of safety issues in all of its vehicles is just about over. While it’s a record year for recalls, Barra points out that 80 percent of the vehicles the company’s recalled are no longer in production.

The ongoing investigation has not turned up issues similar to the delayed ignition switch recall.

“I have nothing to conclude there’s anything like this,” she said. “We’ve been digging pretty deep. We’ll continue to do that. As issues are raised, we’ll address them.”

The recall crisis broke just weeks after Barra assumed the top job at GM. It’s been something that’s consumed a lot of her time.

“All of us on the board believe Mary has done an outstanding job since becoming CEO in January,” said GM Chairman Theodore Solso. “We did not envision the extremely difficult situation that she was faced with almost immediately. We could not be prouder of the way she has represented General Motors.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
Facebook: facebook.com/carchronicles
Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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