World and Nation

Something went ‘very wrong’ at GM, chief says

Mary T. Barra, General Motors’ chief executive, announced another round of wide-ranging recalls Monday, a sign that the company was moving with a new sense of urgency on safety problems after it disclosed a decadelong failure to fix a defect tied to 12 deaths.

The recalls, which cover 1.7 million vehicles worldwide for a variety of problems, come in addition to last month’s recall of 1.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other models. In one of Monday’s recalls, GM had alerted owners to the problem three years ago but did not make a recall.

Barra also made her most forceful comments yet on GM’s need to reform its safety efforts.

“Something went very wrong in our processes in this instance, and terrible things happened,” she said in an internal video broadcast to employees.

GM has come under intense pressure from government officials to explain why it took years to address faulty ignition switches that could cut off engine power and disable air bags in Cobalts and other small cars.

Barra’s comments to employees — including a letter on March 4 — represent the latest effort by the company to limit the damage that the recalls have inflicted on its reputation and consumer confidence.

“Mary Barra understands the value of taking full responsibility for GM’s latest, high-profile challenges, especially if she wants to send the message that this is a new GM,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with the auto-research firm Kelley Blue Book.

Investors showed scant reaction to the news. Shares of GM closed at $34.63, up more than 1 percent on a strong day for the market.

The latest recalls followed orders by Barra to accelerate product reviews of safety issues that were already underway, the company said.

While the recalls were in various stages of completion, the company decided to announce all three actions at the same time, according to a person briefed on the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Barra said the move was a direct result of GM’s internal review of the faulty ignition switches.

“I asked our team to redouble our efforts on pending product reviews, bring them forward and resolve them quickly,” she said.

GM also took the unusual step of disclosing the estimated cost of the ignition switch recall as well as the three new recalls. The company said it expected to take a charge of $300 million for the combined safety actions — a figure it would not normally announce until its quarterly earnings release.

There was no indication by GM that any of the affected models had been involved in accidents that resulted in injuries or deaths.