General Motors CEO Mary Barra took the company’s annual stockholders meeting as an opportunity to reassure its investors that it’s in the best position to meet and exceed its coming competitive challenges. Barra and her company have faced an onslaught of negative attention since it was first discovered it had delayed the recall of millions of small cars with a fatal ignition switch defect.
“In every market, consumers have more and better automotive choices than ever before,” the 52-year old mother of two said. “And the competition is only going to get tougher. This is a reality. Another reality is that GM is positioned to be stronger, leaner and more responsive than ever before.”
Barra reflected on a successful 2013 with significant financial performance, which allowed for the company to declare a common stock dividend in January, which was paid out to investors in March. She also noted the automaker’s award winning product launches, like the Cadillac CTS and Corvette Stingray, its reduced losses in Europe and its year-over-year net income increase of $700 million before interest.
GM knew it wasn’t going to walk away from its stockholders meeting without at least briefly addressing its recall crisis. Barra told investors of the steps the company will take to navigate the ignition switch recalls and expressed her sympathies to victims and their families who were affected by the situation.
“I know there are no words that can ease their pain and grief,” she said. “I have and will be guided by two clear principles: to do right thing for those that were harmed and to make sure we accept responsibility for our mistakes and commit to doing everything within our power to prevent this sort of problem from ever happening again.”
Stockholders were also briefed on compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg’s fund for those who were injured or lost family members as a result of the faulty ignition switch. Exact compensation amounts have yet to be revealed, however Barra said the company will treat victims and their families with “compassion, decency and fairness.”
Barra ended her remarks to shareholders with optimistic words about GM’s future, but added that improvement and change will only come if all its employees begin to set the bar for improved work quality.
“Today, GM is a very good company. Tomorrow, we can be a truly great company. We can only achieve this goal if we hold each other to the highest possible standards.”