GM chief executive to employees: ‘People died in our cars’

CEO Mary Barra candidly spoke to the automaker’s workers in a town hall setting Thursday about a $900 million settlement in its ignition switch case.

Corporate candor can be potent.

General Motors has been facing one of the worst corporate crises one could imagine for the past 18 months or so, and Thursday, after the announcement of a $900 million settlement, the company’s CEO opened up to employees.

“People were hurt and people died in our cars,” CEO Mary Barra said in a town-hall-style meeting, according to The Detroit News. She added, “We didn’t do our job, and as part of our apology to the victims we promise to take responsibility for our actions.”

GM has recalled millions of cars over an ignition defect that has been tied to 124 deaths and 270 injury claims. Reportedly, the company was aware of the problem, which could lead the loss of power steering and turn off airbags, 11 years before issuing the recalls.

Barra made similar remarks in June of last year in a “Today” show appearance. A few weeks earlier, she fired 15 employees for “incompetence and neglect.”

In addition to the $900 million, GM’s settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice also includes two charges of misleading federal regulators and wire fraud. GM also expects to pay another $625 million to the injured and to families of people who died as a result of the defect.

Barra said in Thursday’s remarks:

This was a tragic situation. We understand that lives were impacted. That is something that we understand and take forward and will have with us every day. This was a tough agreement.

Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, added: “When you make mistakes, you accept them. You take necessary steps to make sure you never make the same mistakes ever again.”

What do you make of the GM execs’ contrite remarks, Ragan readers?

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