Before a friendly Detroit Economic Club crowd, General Motors CEO Mary Barra declared “the days of GM being a competent but polite competitor are over.”
“I really want to win,” she said during a question and answer session. “We have work to do. It’s going to take some time. We rolled out our 52 priorities, our purpose and our goals. We have done that in a way that every person at General Motors, whatever roll they play, understands how they fit in.”
She also underscored GM’s perseverance to making the next generation Chevrolet Volt more compelling to more customers. Michigan will have a larger stake in GM’s quest for better-selling and profitable electric vehicles. The company is spending $240 million in a Warren transmission plant to manufacture the extended-range electric car’s electric drive.
There will be $300 million in additional investments at GM’s Michigan locations announced by the end of the year.
“We don’t invest here to be popular. We do it because the talent and expertise is here that will make us better,” she said.
Recalling her graduate school days when she earned an M.B.A. at Stanford University, Barra said, “I know Silicon Valley and the wonderful energy and creativity that have made it such a source of economic growth. But these qualities exist here in Michigan and we must seize the opportunity to create an environment where the art of the possible flourishes.”
Overall it was a welcoming setting, a stark contrast to the Congressional inquisitions she faced this past summer after the ignition switch crisis erupted, triggering a series of investigations, a $35 million fine levied by federal safety regulators, the firing of more than a dozen employees, the overhaul of GM’s approach to safety and $2.7 billion in charges against earnings.
Asked if the pace of recalls will slow in coming months, Barra said, “I think it already has. If you look at small numbers we are seeing now. We have good sensing mechanisms in place. If we have an issue we’re finding it quickly.”