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A Test of Leadership for GM’s New CEO?

General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be taking center stage today on Capitol Hill,  just months after taking the helm at the automaker, to address questions of a potential cover-up involving auto defects linked to at least 32 crashes and 13 deaths.

Mary Barra “Baptism by Fire”

The Detroit News is reporting that Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Acting Administrator David Friedman will be testifying before a House committee looking into whether enough was done to recall problematic vehicles–and–whether it was done quickly enough.

Problems with ignition switches, airbags and steering mechanisms have led to the recall of some 6 million vehicles since February of this year.  Another round of more than a milllion was announced just Monday.

The report indicates documents have revealed that GM knew of potential safety problems back in 2001.  A memo, dated in 2005, outlined a discussion between engineers who opted for a recall before being convinced it would cost too much in time and money.

While the automaker didn’t order a recall of all vehicles affected, it did instruct dealerships to fix problems reported by consumers. GM also bought back vehicles that displayed serious stalling problems.

There is no word yet on how high the decision-making went.  That will likely be asked today of Barra.

Sources say Barra will testify she doesn’t know why it took so long to report the safey concerns or who specifically knew of the problem.  She is believed, though, to vow to work with congressional investigators to get to the bottom of the situation.

General Motors, not long out of bankrupcy, could be looking at devasting fines if found to be negligent.

Join Jo Anne Paul and Steve Gruber weekdays from 5:30 to 9 AM on 1240 WJIM-AM and the Stations of the Michigan Talk Network


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