WARREN (WJRT) -
(06/05/14) - General Motors released the results of an internal investigation into why it took so long to order a recall of its cars that had faulty ignition switches.
CEO Mary Barra went over the report with employees Thursday morning at the GM Tech Center in Warren.
Barra says former U.S. Attorney General Anton Valukas determined there was no conspiracy by the company to cover up the facts and no evidence that any employee made a trade-off between safety and cost.
The Valukas report shows GM engineers misdiagnosed the problem as customer complaints and not as a safety issue.
"We believe there was a unique series of mistakes that were made over an extended period of time," she said.
GM recalled 2.6 million cars because their ignition switches could turn off unexpectedly, shutting off the car and turning off safety systems, including the air bag.
Among the mistakes was a failure to recognize how dangerous it could be for the airbags to be shut off by the faulty ignition switch.
"Problems were misdiagnosed from the very beginning. It was deemed a customer satisfaction issue and not a safety issue," Barra said.
The defect resulted in at least 13 deaths.
Records show GM knew about the problem as early as 2001, but didn't address it until this year.
Barra said the internal review exposed what it termed a troubling pattern of neglect and incompetence.
"Repeatedly individuals failed to disclose critical information that could have changed the lives of those impacted by the faulty ignition switch. If this situation had been disclosed, then the company would've dealt with this situation much differently, appropriately," she said.
GM also announced it will set up a compensation program for crash victims and their families.
"First, we will do the right thing for those who were harmed. And second, we'll accept responsibility for our mistakes and commit to doing everything within our power to make sure this never happens again," Barra said.
GM dealers have been watching Barra's leadership style.
"She believes in her heart she's doing everything she can to get the problem fixed and not happen anymore problems like this in the future," said Brad Goldman, Suski Chevrolet-Buick general sales manager.
The past few months have been busy ones at GM dealerships. All the recalls have kept the service departments hopping.
Barra says she's committed to leading in a way that brings honor and respect to the company. So, it's not surprising to Goldman that Barra has been forthright about the safety recall issue.
"This report is extremely thorough, brutally tough and deeply troubling. For those of us who have dedicated our lives to this company, it is enormously painful to see our shortcomings laid out so vividly. As I read the report, I was deeply sadden and disturbed," Barra said.
Nonetheless, dealers say the recall and internal investigations have not bothered GM customers.
"I think people believe in General Motors. I don't think this is going to scare them away," Goldman said.
Barra says corporate culture doesn't change overnight, but she is pressing hard to meet higher standards.
So far, 15 people have been fired as a result of the investigation and five have been suspended.
GM says, so far, 280,000 ignition switch kits have been made for the 2.5 million cars that have been recalled.