GM CEO tells students to quickly fix problems

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Work hard, be honest and address problems quickly so they don't grow.

That is the message that new General Motors CEO Mary Barra gave University of Michigan graduates at a commencement ceremony Saturday. Barra, the first woman to lead a major automaker, took the top spot at GM in January, just as a deadly ignition switch problem was starting to surface. Her company has recalled 2.6 million older small cars to fix the switches, which have been linked to crashes causing at least 13 deaths. GM has admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet it didn't start recalling the cars until February. Barra testified before two congressional committees that she didn't know about the problem until December.

The recall wasn't mentioned in a speech prepared for the ceremony and released in advance by GM. But there were several lessons that seemed to apply to her first four months leading the nation's largest automaker.

"Remember that hope is not a strategy," she said. "Problems don't go away when you ignore them — they get bigger." Barra also urged the students to be honest in every aspect of their lives, and to use their optimism and propensity for inclusion to rethink outdated assumptions and expose and correct injustice. She also told them to keep friends and family close to celebrate good times and for support during tough times.

Two university groups objected to the university's decision to invite Barra to speak. The Graduate Employees Organization passed a resolution asking the school to rescind the invitation due to the recall. It was supported by the Student Union of Michigan.

About 9,500 undergraduate, professional and graduate students received degrees Saturday.

Related Headlines

  • 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe

    Hyundai recalls more than 419K vehicles

    Hyundai is recalling more than 419,000 cars and SUVs to fix suspension, brake and oil leak problems. The biggest of three recalls posted Friday by U.S. safety regulators is ... 

  • Wendi Kunkel

    GM recalls challenge company, frustrate customers

    Nine million parts. That's what General Motors needs to repair millions of cars it has recalled since Feb. 7. With ignition switches, power steering motors and other parts ... 

  • 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

    Feds add Chrysler to ignition, air bag probe

    A U.S. safety agency has opened two investigations into Chrysler minivans and SUVs as part of a widening inquiry into air bag and ignition switch problems across the U.S. 


    GM safety crisis grows as recalls mount

    General Motors' safety crisis deepened dramatically Monday when the automaker added 8.2 million vehicles to its ballooning list of cars recalled over faulty ignition switches. 

Find the best rates

Find your future job here