Who Is GM Chief Mary Barra? Meet Its First Female CEO, Who Inherited The Scandal Of Her Life
It's been a rough few months for General Motor's first female CEO, Mary Barra, and it doesn't look like it'll be getting any easier. On Thursday, GM's Mary Barra said she'd fired 15 people over the faulty ignition switches that have been linked to several deaths and rocked the automotive company to its core. In an announcement detailing the findings of an internal report, the CEO confirmed that the company's ultimately fatal delay in recalling the malfunctioning cars was due to a “pattern of incompetence and neglect."
Though the report cleared Barra herself of any involvement in the scandal, she will nonetheless need to go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee once again, to face questions about the decade-long delay that has been linked to at least 13 deaths and the recall of millions of GM cars. The life-long GM-er, who started working at the company as an 18-year-old intern, has been fielding investigations, lawsuits and even mockery since she took on her position as Chief executive — becoming the world’s first-ever female CEO in the auto industry — in January of this year. It's all happened so fast, it's almost a blur — but here are the key moments of Barra's first few months as head of the problem-plagued company until today.
Jan. 15, 2014
Fifty-one-year-old Barra officially becomes the CEO of GM, an auto empire worth $56.8 billion, succeeding CEO Dan Akerson. This makes her the first female Chief Exec of General Motors, and the first female to become a CEO in the auto industry, ever. In the world.
Jan. 30, 2014
The troubles start only two weeks after she takes office, when Barra says she first learns about the ignition defect and GM announces its initial recalls of Chevrolet, Saturn and Pontiac vehicles.
February 26, 2014
The shit starts hitting the fan as GM issues its massive, headline-making auto recall. At least 1.37 million cars built between 2003 and 2007 are affected.
March 4, 2014
Barra takes charge and writes a supportive and encouraging letter to her company employees: "The vehicles we make today are the best in memory and I’m confident that they will do fine, on their own merits. And our company’s reputation won’t be determined by the recall itself, but by how we address the problem going forward, ” she writes. "I appreciate how today’s GM has responded so far.”
March 10, 2014
GM hires law firms to conduct an internal investigation into the delayed recall; one of them happens to be the lawyer who looked into the Lehman Brothers after the firm's 2008 collapse. At the same time, the Justice Department and Congress also starts looking into GM’s procedures.
March 13, 2014
The new report reveals that 303 people died after airbags failed to deploy on recalled models — a far cry from GM's estimation of 12 deaths and 31 accident.
March 17, 2014
Barra makes a video apologizing for GM's handling of the crisis, saying that "something went very wrong" and that they "pledge to cooperate fully" with the investigation. "As a member of the GM family and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me," she says.
April 1, 2014
Barra testifies for two hours before the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. She keeps notably cool and appears to avoid giving specific answers, but she repeats that the internal investigation is ongoing. She also states that GM has hired Kenneth Feinberg, a famous compensation expert who had previously been in charge of payouts after September 11, the Boston bombings and Sandy Hook.
April 6, 2014
Saturday Night Live opens with a skit featuring a fake Mary Barra responding to Congress' questions by saying versions of "I'll take a pass on that" to make fun of Barra's testimony.
May 16, 2014
GM is made to pay a jaw-dropping $35 million penalty. Not only is this the first time a fine of this amount has ever imposed on an automaker, it's also the first time that a car company will be forced to make changes to its safety regulations under government supervision.
June 5, 2014
GM concludes its internal investigation — Barra fires 15 employees but is cleared of charges. Still, the crisis is far from over. "The conclusion of GM’s internal investigation marks an important milestone, but our investigation continues as many questions remain for both the company and NHTSA,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton says, according to the Wall Street Journal.