General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra has launched an internal review to examine how the automaker delayed reporting defective ignition switches in small cars that have been linked to 33 crashes and 13 deaths.
The recall affected 1.37 million cars from model years 2003 through 2007, including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
The ignition switches can be knocked out of place, thus cutting power without warning and shutting off safety systems, including the airbags.
Dealers begin getting replacement switches early in April, and when supplies are sufficient, GM will send a second letter telling owners to make a dealer appointment for the repair. The company then will send reminders every three months for at least 18 months.
“We will hold ourselves accountable and improve our processes so our customers do not experience this again,” Barra said in a message to employees.
GM has already settled one lawsuit arising from the problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating whether GM failed to report the problem in a timely manner. A finding that it did could result in a substantial fine.
Barra, who became CEO in January, said the public would judge the automaker on its response to the recall, not on the defects that were recently disclosed in the vehicles.
“Our company’s reputation won’t be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem going forward,” she said. “What is important is taking great care of our customers and showing that it really is a new day at GM.
“While I deeply regret the circumstances that brought us to this point, I appreciate how today’s GM has responded so far. We have much more work ahead of us, and I’m confident we will do the right thing for our customers.”
She pledged to cooperate with the NHTSA investigation.