The head of General Motors said on Tuesday she was "deeply sorry" about the recall of millions of her company's cars for a defect blamed for at least 13 deaths and that she was disturbed by past GM comments that the cost of replacing defective switches in some cars was too high.
Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra also told a House of Representatives committee that the company had retained Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw victims compensation funds after the Sept. 11 attacks, to help in its response to the crisis.
Lawmakers are seeking to establish who is to blame for at least 13 GM auto-related deaths over the past decade and challenged Barra over the automaker's slow response to defective ignition switches in its Cobalt and Saturn Ion cars.
"This was an extraordinary situation that came to light on my watch," she said in her prepared statement. "I can't turn back the clock, but we acted without hesitation. Today's GM will do the right thing.
"I express my sincerest apologies ... I am deeply sorry," he said.
Later, in response to questioning, Barra said she had not met with the engineering team responsible for the defective ignition switch, but that they were being interviewed as part of an in-house GM investigation.
Barra, who is a 25-year GM veteran, but only became CEO in January, said the automaker was working with its parts supplier to ensure new replacement switches are safe. When asked why GM had not replaced a part in the switches that would have cost very little, she said it was "very disturbing.
"It is unacceptable and not the way we do business at GM."
She also said that information about the defective switch had been known in parts of the company years before the recall this year, but that the information had not been shared and she only learned about it on January 31 this year.
First published April 1 2014, 12:38 PM