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
March 18, 2014 7:39 PM EDT

General Motors’ top executive apologized Tuesday for deaths linked to the delayed recall of 1.6 million vehicles, admitting that the automaker should have told customers about ignition problems sooner.

“I am very sorry for the loss of life that occurred, and we will take every step to make sure this never happens again,” Barra told reporters.

CEO Mary Barra said she first found out about the faulty ignition switches that affected airbag deployment in December of last year, the Associated Press reports. G.M. started recalling cars affected by the problem in February, although engineers have known about glitch since 2004.

The ignition problems are tied to the deaths of at least 12 customers. Barra did not say if G.M. would compensate the victims’ families, but promised to take the appropriate action once the company completes an internal investigation.

The Justice Department is exploring whether the company broke any laws in its handling of the recall.

In a message to employees yesterday, Barra conceded that “Something went wrong with our process…and terrible things happened.”

Barra became the company’s top executive on Jan. 15.


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