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GM CEO Mary Barra Loves Cars, Talks About What's Next After the 2014 GM Recall Saga
If you’re a recurrent reader of autoevolution, you are well aware of our extensive recall coverage. Be it an op located in the US, Europe, China or a worldwide campaign, vehicle safety is no small deal. If you vector in the fact that 2014 was dubbed “Year of the Recalls”, there’s no questioning why fixing a defective car became a priority for automakers.

GM CEO Mary Barra Loves Cars, Talks About What's Next After the 2014 GM Recall Saga

Last year alone, the automotive industry basically went into recall overdrive. Takata Corporation’s notorious airbag inflator campaign and General Motors’ ignition switch crisis throned above all the other mess-ups. Heck, GM ended 2012 with a global recall tally of 30,433,365 automobiles, of which 26,951,675 called back in North America.

Consider the expenses General Motors had to sustain for ordering replacement parts, paying service department technicians, giving substitute means of personal transportation for all of those affected owners that had to leave their cars way too many hours in the garage, the lot, and you’ll end up with a bill in the billions. That’s if you do not take into consideration the so-called ignition switch recall fund and the millions of bucks given to the families of the dearly departed or injured.

2014 was a total fiasco for the biggest of the Big Three and I often said in my previous stories how GM CEO Mary Barra was also an element of the disaster. Dan Akerson was utter BS, let’s be frank here, while Barra was heralded as a savior figure on January 15, 2014, when she took the reigns of the most important automotive conglomerate. A lot of people had high hopes from her, yet Barra managed to upset many people after numerous blatant statements and her visits to Capitol Hill.

Fast-forward to the present and this week saw General Motors CEO Mary Barra accepting to speak to AutomotiveNews’ editor-in-chief Keith Crain at the #ANWorldCongress. Due to my all-too-busy schedule, I followed the conversation via Twitter and I was perplexed by some details the GM helmswoman shared during the congress.

Some of my favorite tweets, the ones that made me change the way I once perceived Barra, were the following: “Was the recall crisis worse than bankruptcy? They were both pretty bad.”; “We learned a lot last year, but anyone who would describe last year as fun would be wrong.”; “You have to be tough. It’s a tough business.”; “GM's previous mission - design, build and sell the world's best vehicles - was treated as license to do whatever you want.”; "Do you have to be tough? I’m getting tougher, not meaner.”; “Do you fire people? Many.”; so on and so forth.

Due to the fact the environment of the congress was more laid back than speaking at a General Motors-assembled press conference or in front of House and Senate on Capitol Hill, Mary Barra talking to Keith Crain was a revelation on how this madam is when she’s not under pressure. I still have my doubts about some of her mess-up moments from 2014, but this Q&A session was a revelatory experience. But let me tell you about the most important part of the #ANWorldCongress.

First and foremost, Barra totally agrees with the Obama administration’s decision to nix the Old GM brands (Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Saab) and nurture the remaining ones. She declared: “We have well-defined brands that don't compete with each other,” which in my point of view says it all about her efforts on what’s to do after the 2009 bailout. To boot, Mary Barra also shared a bit of a tearjerker when she told that she’s missing her son’s hockey game to be at the AutomotiveNews World Congress.

But the statement that impressed and worried me in equal measure is the “I own an ’07 Tahoe [which speaks to its durability], a Camao SS, we’re about purchase a Cadillac SRX.” Sorry for the misspellings, but that’s what how the tweet was written. Furthermore, when asked about if she’s a “car guy or auto exec?”, Barra responded with a definitive “I’m a person who loves cars.”

That speaks many to us car guys and my hat is off to Barra on this occasion. Regarding what’s worrying me about the previously stated, Mary’s 2007 Chevy Tahoe was recalled back in 2010 “to add a fuse to the control circuit harness to address the potential consequences of a printed circuit board (PCB) electrical short.”

Moving on to the Chevrolet Camaro SS, that was an unexpected one. I’ve seen various photos of Mary Barra wearing a jacket à la Marlon Brando in The Wild One, but virtually no one had a clue this lady drives a 6.2-liter small-block vee eight-powered muscle car with over 400 horsepower at her right foot’s disposal. That’s pretty badass for a 53-year-old woman. Too bad all of the fifth-gen Camaro production run was recalled in 2014 because the driver's knee can bump the key fob and cause the key to inadvertently move out of the "run" position. At least it’s not a Cobalt...

Last but not least, let's talk about the Cadillac SRX the General Motors chief exec is about to purchase. A recall notice from late 2014 reads that around 300,000 examples of mid-size crossovers are called back because “the jam nut in the rear suspension toe adjuster link may not be torqued to the proper specification. A loose toe adjuster link can cause the vehicle to sway or wander at highway speeds.” A part of the affected population was made up of 2010 to 2015 model year Cadillac SRX vehicles, so go figure:Mary Barra owns (and will probably own) recalled General Motors vehicles.
It’s redundant to ponder whether she’s got faith in the botchiness of modern GM nameplates due to her executive position or if she wants to prove that for better or worse she’s sticking with GM. It's also redundant to believe that with these recent statements, Barra is a better person than she was in 2014, but Mary Barra’s choice of cars also tells a lot about herself and her future actions at General Motors.

Editor’s note: I’m still keeping an eye on you, Mary, and General Motors' future crisis situations. 


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