As reported in Ad Age, new GM CEO Mary Barra has a real tiger by the tail with this nasty ignition switch recall, which involves 1.6 million vehicles. It is reported this defect has been linked to at least 12 deaths, so it is not an insignificant event for any manufacturer.
GM cars have gotten better over the last decade - a lot better. Take it from someone who has never been much of a GM fan. Now, under unprecedented scrutiny as the first female CEO of a major U.S.carmaker, Barra will have to be absolutely pitch-perfect on this one to avoid the kind of mistakes made by others.
The most glaring example of a botched recall and PR nightmare has got to be Toyota's handling of the "sticking accelerator" problem that affected over 2 million cars. During that crisis, they couldn't seem to get out of their own way. They just had another recall involving the third generation Prius - presumably handling that one better, but lucky for them the GM recall is taking some of the attention away.
Some of the so-called crisis management experts are saying GM has been too reactive, a little slow to respond, but I hope Mary Barra and her team at GM keep their foot on the gas and get out in front of this one. If they don't handle it well, it will reinforce the pro-Japanese bias that already afflicts so many U.S. car buyers.
If she handles it well, Barra's reputation will be solidified favorably alongside other crisis-proven auto executives like Chrysler's Iacocca and Ford's Mulally.