Click photo to enlarge
General Motors (GM) Company CEO Mary Barra testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee hearing on the GM recall, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. GM has recalled over 2.5 million vehicles across the globe after connecting defective ignition switches in similar cars to 13 deaths and 31 crashes. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

Mary Barra, General Motors' new CEO, was in a tough spot this week as she answered questions before Congress about why her company didn't quickly recall cars it knew contained dangerous, defective parts.

It seemed the only reasonable explanations available were that GM was either corrupt or incompetent. But, instead of selecting one of those, Barra chose to plead ignorance.

It was not a popular choice.

By steering that course, the latest denizen of GM's corner office got to experience what it feels like when members of Congress are angry about something and the news cameras are rolling.

California's Sen. Barbara Boxer was one of the leaders of the disgusted as she peppered Barra with questions.

"You don't know anything about anything," Boxer said at one point.

Barra tried to assure the senators that GM is now focused on safety and the consumer, but Boxer was not assuaged.

"If this is the new GM leadership, it's pretty lacking," Boxer said.

Two other senators, who are both former prosecutors, raised the specter of criminal prosecution.

"I don't see this as anything but criminal," said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the more he learns about GM, "the more convinced I am that GM has a real exposure to criminal liability."

We seriously doubt this is how Barra had hoped these hearings would go. But we are with Blumenthal, the more we learn the more outraged we are about GM's actions.


Advertisement

It is growing increasingly clear that GM obfuscated and covered up information about defective ignition switches in at least two of its vehicles -- Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions -- and that those defects are linked to 13 deaths and dozens of accidents.

On Monday, Barra apologized for the company's actions during an tear-filled meeting with many of the families who had lost loved ones from crashes linked to the defective parts.

On Tuesday, she appeared before a House committee where she again apologized. She also promised that many of the answers Congress seeks will come out in an internal GM investigation that should be completed in 45 to 60 days.

She apologized a third time at the beginning of Wednesday's Senate subcommittee hearing. But that did not fend off the barrage. It would appear that Barra's strategy is to rely heavily on the results of GM's internal investigation. If that is the case, the report should be finished sooner rather than later and it had better be a good one. A real good one.

As we read the political tea leaves, anything that is seen as a substandard investigation will earn Barra an "invitation" back to the Senate subcommittee. And next time, we suspect, they won't be so nice.