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General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra listened while testifying Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington before a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing.

Lauren Victoria Burke • Associated Press,

Under glare at a Senate hearing, GM's chief gives little ground

  • Article by: BILL VLASIC and AARON M. KESSLER
  • New York Times
  • July 17, 2014 - 10:34 PM

– Only three months ago, Mary Barra arrived for the first time on Capitol Hill to apologize — publicly, profusely and personally — for General Motors’ long failure to recall millions of small cars.

On Thursday, Barra returned to Washington again, and this time, she drew the line.

As senator after senator offered more bruising criticism of GM, Barra, GM’s chief executive, signaled that there were limits to what the automaker would do.

GM, she said, will not expand its compensation program for victims. The company will not waive its protection from lawsuits gained in bankruptcy reorganization. It will not share more documents from its internal investigation. And she will not dismiss the company’s embattled general counsel, Michael Millikin, despite several senators’ calls to do so.

Barra showed lawmakers that after making broad changes to its practices and concessions to victims, GM was beginning to look beyond the scandal — a subtle but significant shift for the company as it tries to emerge from the gravest safety crisis in its history.

But many lawmakers were not satisfied with her answers, even as they grudgingly praised her leadership.

“You’ve provided answers that, I think, for me are unsatisfactory,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., one of GM’s harshest critics.

Lawmakers were particularly incensed about revelations in an article in the New York Times on Tuesday that GM had responded to “death inquiries” from regulators about fatal accidents by saying that it did not know the cause — when in fact it had determined a likely cause — or by simply rebuffing the request altogether.

“I consider it a coverup when a manufacturer does not respond fully and accurately,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Barra promised to review all future death inquiries with the company’s new chief safety officer, Jeff Boyer. “It will be his responsibility to bring those to me,” she said.

© 2014 Star Tribune