G.M. chief executive Mary T. Barra was visibly shaken at the end of the second bruising day of testimony on General Motors’ ignition switch recall. Surrounded by a cadre of company officials, Ms. Barra was hustled out the door and into an elevator as soon as she was excused from the Senate subcommittee hearing. The recall has become a searing crisis for Ms. Barra and her management team.
The company is currently facing the recall of 2.6 million small cars. G.M. executives had counted on Ms. Barra to deliver a core message to the Senate committee that the company has become more trustworthy since its emergence from bankruptcy, but several lawmakers seized on her unwillingness to share information about events leading to the switch recall as an indication of the company being untrustworthy. The company has announced that it has begun an internal investigation of why it failed to fix a deadly safety defect for more than a decade.
G.M. has announced the recruitment of crisis management adviser, Jeff Eller, to help the company through its current crisis. Mr. Eller has worked with the Clinton administration and represented Firestone in its tire recall in 2000. Joining Mr. Eller is Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer specializing in victims’ compensation claims, and Anton R. Valukas, the former United States attorney who will be conducting the internal investigation.
The creation of the team of outside advisers is a big difference from how G.M. originally decided to handle the matter. G.M.’s early approach to handling the crisis was to look inward to set strategy. However, G.M.’s strategy to put Ms. Barra front and center has not defused the growing anger among lawmakers and consumers. It has become increasingly clear that Ms. Barra needs some outside help.
G.M. spokesman Greg Martin said that Mr. Eller was retained as part of a larger effort to add specialists with experience in similar crises. Mr. Martin said, “As we have from the start, we are drawing upon those who have deep experience and expertise in these matters. Jeff will join a team that is helping us guide our response.” Mr. Eller declined to be interviewed and sent back an email referring all questions to a G.M. spokesman.