General Motors’ chief executive, Mary T. Barra, told employees Monday that “something went very wrong” in the company’s decadelong failure to recall 1.6 million vehicles for a defect linked to 12 deaths.
In a video message, Ms. Barra said the automaker was moving aggressively to produce new parts for the affected vehicles, and she vowed to change GM’s internal procedures to prevent delays in future recalls.
“Something went very wrong in our processes in this instance, and terrible things happened,” she said in the video.
Ms. Barra said the company was cooperating with a wide series of investigations, including those by federal regulators, the U.S. attorney’s office in New York and two congressional committees.
“We have apologized, but that is only one step in the journey to resolve this,” she said.
GM has come under intense pressure to explain why it took years to address problems with ignition switches that could cut off engine power and disable air bags in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars.
The company announced an initial recall of 778,000 vehicles Feb. 13 and then expanded it to 1.62 million later in the month. In chronologies submitted to federal regulators, the company said it first knew of flaws in its ignition switches as far back as 2001.
Ms. Barra has not spoken publicly about the recall, or about GM’s own internal investigation into why it took so long to reveal and fix a deadly safety problem.
In the video, which GM made public on a company website, Ms. Barra said the company would revise its internal controls and procedures on recalls and other safety issues. “Our system of deciding and managing recalls is going to change,” she said.
She urged GM employees to consider how every decision they make affects the company’s customers.
“We will be better because of this tragic situation if we seize the opportunity,” she said.
The video was released as GM was announcing three additional recalls covering about 1.5 million vehicles Monday.
The company said it would recall 1.18 million SUVs because of a wiring problem that could cause air bags not to deploy. The vehicles are Buick Enclaves and GMC Acadias from the 2008 to 2013 model years, Chevrolet Traverses from the 2009 to 2013 model years, and Saturn Outlooks from the 2008 to 2010 model years.
In addition, the company said it would recall 63,000 Cadillac XTS sedans, model years 2013 and 2014, because problems in a brake pump could possibly cause engine fires. The company said it was aware of two fires related to the defect.
GM will also recall 303,000 full-size vans that do not comply with requirements for head impacts for unrestrained occupants. The vehicles are Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans from the model years 2009 to 2014.
The company said that the three new recalls, in addition to the ignition-switch recall, would cost GM about $300 million.
In a news release, Ms. Barra said the new recalls resulted from product reviews ordered after the ignition-switch defects were announced.
“I asked our team to redouble our efforts on our pending product reviews, bring them forward, and resolve them quickly,” she said.
“Maybe GM learned its lesson and realized they have to take action when consumers are potentially at risk,”said Kaitlin Wowak, a University of Notre Dame management professor who researches supply chain risks and disruption.“The air bag recall gives GM an opportunity to show consumers they are willing to take action before consumers are harmed. It is also a chance for Mary Barra to show the world what she is made of.”