A few words of sympathy today for Mary Barra, who is no relation to Yogi. Since January, Mary has been the CEO, the grand fromage, of General Motors.
No other woman has ever been put in charge of an enterprise quite so big. It should have been hailed as a major smashing of the infamous ‘glass ceiling’. However, this past week, Mary was literally thrown to the wolves in Washington DC. For two long days, she seemed to be very much alone as members of the Congress questioned her about why GM did not act sooner to correct the problems that led to the recall of almost six million of its vehicles worldwide.
The problems resulted in more than a dozen deaths, and as Mary Barra walked to Capital Hill, she had to pass by family members holding up photos of their departed loved ones. On the hot seat, all she could say was that she didn’t know why the company screwed up so horribly. She was left to toss out the usual platitudes about “a new day dawning, with a new culture” etc.
(Mary Barra audio: We changed our core values. We’re leading by example.”)
The politicians were not impressed. The Obama administration had already punished Toyota for similar problems. Now they’re suggesting that some of the decision makers in Michigan should perhaps go to jail. In short, it’s not a good time to be the boss of a major automaker.
What a decade it has been. Back in the day, it was said that “What’s good for General Motors is good for the U.S.A.” In 2009, they were nicknamed Government Motors, as they accepted a huge bailout to stay alive.
As someone who has driven Chevy products for much of my life, I wish Mary Barra well. I can’t help but wonder though if she experienced similar feelings to those of Tim Burke in Winnipeg a couple of years ago. “The good news, you get to be a head coach for the first time. The bad news is, we want you to coach the Blue Bombers.”
I’m Roger Currie