May 19, 2020

GM CEO Mary Barra promises to change recall procedures following public apology for fatalities

Recalls
Manufacturing
GM
General Motors
Bizclik Editor
3 min
GM CEO Mary Barra promises to change recall procedures following public apology for fatalities

General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra said on Thursday that she was unaware of defective GM cars linked to 12 deaths until January 31, just two weeks after she took over as CEO and nearly 13 years after GM engineers first documented problems.

Last month, the automaker recalled more than 1.6 million cars from 2003 to 2007 to replace faulty ignition switches that could cause the engine to shut down and turn off the airbags. According to Reuters, the first death linked to the defect occurred in Maryland in July 2005.

“I am very sorry for the loss of life that has occurred,” Barra said at a roundtable meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

SEE MORE: GM announces recall to fix Chevy Volt fire risk

During that same meeting, GM also named a 40-year company veteran to the new position of vehicle safety chief, responsible for product safety issues, including recalls. Jeff Boyer will work directly with Barra to improve the company’s recall and safety process.

According to Barra, Boyer will have “complete authority” to make changes in the safety and recall process.

“Clearly, this took too long” Mary Barra, CEO

Speaking about the recall process and lengthy internal engineering probe of the defective switches, which GM learned about in 2001, Barra said, “Clearly, this took too long.”

Barra also said she learned in late December, when she was still head of GM's global product development organization, that there was a review of the Chevrolet Cobalt, one of the cars subsequently involved in the recall. She added she was not told the details of the review at that time. Barra said after she learned of the problem, GM's board was immediately informed.

Ready to testify

Barra said she is prepared to testify about the recall at US congressional hearings in Washington. She also emphasized that there are “no sacred cows” in the company's internal investigation.

Barra did however decline to address questions related to the crash victims and their families after some safety advocates urged he company to establish a $1 billion trust fund to take care of those effected. Barra also said GM has not contacted families of the 12 victims, preferring to wait until the company's internal probe is completed in “probably a few months.” But she promised the company would take action once details of the probe emerged.

“Until the investigation is done, I won't know who knew what when,” Barra said, adding that no executive had been disciplined or fired related to the defective ignition switches.

SEE MORE: GM revamps the 2014 Buick Regal

Barra concluded saying her goals are twofold: “To repair every single one of these vehicles, and to make sure this problem never happens again.” She said GM intends to fix every car even those resold several times.

The first replacement switches will be available for customers on April 7, and GM plans to have enough parts for every recalled car by "the October time frame," Barra said.

GM shares closed 1.6 percent higher at $35.17 on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Last week, the shares fell about 10 percent.

MORE ABOUT THIS STORY:

Share article

Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

CMO
Kyndryl
IBM
Leadership
Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

Share article