In a new published report from Forbes, former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson said current CEO Mary Barra was not aware of the ignition switch safety defect in some of the company’s small cars when she took over the position in January.
The article, which went live on Forbes site today and will be published in the June 16 issue of the magazine, highlights why Barra was chosen for the job and how she’s handled it so far, among many other things. When asked if Barra was “thrown under the bus” like rumors suggested, Akerson responded “of course not”.
“Mary has said it: The moment she became aware of the problem, as I would expect, she confronted it,” Akerson said.
Many believed that Akerson’s sudden retirement announcement in December, which came a year early, was evidence that the high ups at GM knew the ignition switch storm was brewing. In reality, Akerson left to spend time with his wife who had been diagnosed with cancer and Barra, along other GM executives, weren’t made aware of the fault until Jan. 31 they say. Akerson says Barra “didn’t know about it.”
“I bet my life on it,” he said.
Akerson also commented on Barra’s performance under his guidance. According to Forbes, the two liked each other right away and Akerson merged product development and purchasing under her, where he says she “brought order to chaos.” As Akerson prepared to retire, Barra was included among the four top candidates being considered for the position.
“I wanted to make sure she was absolutely the right choice,” said Akerson. “The fact that Mary is a woman is great. But she earned this job on the merits of her performance and her potential.”
Barra said she views the ignition switch recall crisis as an opportunity to change the way GM does business and performs internal operations.
“Obviously we want to do the right thing and serve the customer well through this,” she said. “But it’s also an opportunity to accelerate cultural change,” she said.