TIME

GM CEO Mary Barra’s Stark Apology: ‘Terrible Things Happened’

General Motors CEO Mary Barra introduces the 2015 GMC Canyon pick-up truck at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, on Jan. 12, 2014.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra introduces the 2015 GMC Canyon pick-up truck at the Russell Industrial Center in Detroit, on Jan. 12, 2014. Tannen Maury—EPA

Mary Barra, who only recently became CEO of automaker General Motors, has apologized for the broadening controversy surrounding the company's safety recalls and promised the auto giant would improve the process in the future

General Motors CEO Mary Barra addressed GM employees in a contrite message Monday afternoon as executives at the American auto giant seek to address a widening scandal over safety issues affecting millions of cars. GM has admitted that it was aware for nearly 10 years of an ignition issue that affected 1.6 millions cars and can interfere with air-bag deployment. The safety issue has resulted in at least 12 deaths, and two congressional investigations and the Department of Justice are now reportedly scrutinizing GM’s operations.

“Something went wrong with our process in this instance, and terrible things happened,” Barra said in her video message to employees. “We will be better because of this tragic situation if we seize the opportunity. And I believe we will do just that.”

Barra said the company has sent out letters to customers, and recalled an additional 1.55 million autos as part of its ongoing internal safety review. GM is increasing production lines to help replace parts in faulty recalled cars and dedicating a slew of new customer-service representatives to deal with the problem, she said. “We are completely focused on the problem at the highest levels of the company, and we are putting the customer first and that is guiding every decision we make,” Barra said. “That is how we want today’s GM to be judged. How we handle the recall will be an important test of that commitment.”

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