General Motors Recall PR Crisis


What GM (General Motors Company) is


General Motors Company is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells vehicles and vehicle parts. The company was founded on September 16, 1908 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It has been routinely one of the world’s largest automakers based on global sales.


In 2010, GM sold 8.4 million cars and trucks globally. The United States, China and Brazil are the top three countries which GM drives most of its sales – China is one of its growing market. GM manufactures most of its vehicles in China. In their homepage, GM stresses the importance of its employees and stakeholders by stating “Making the world’s best vehicles can only happen with world’s greatest employees.”  It strive to value their commitment to their customers, employees, partners and other key stakeholders. Based on the value, it has five principles that guide them in everything they do.

  • Safety and Quality Service
  • Create Lifelong Customers
  • Innovate
  • Deliver Long-Term Investment Value
  • Make a Positive Difference

GM’s current problem

(GM Recall : Connecting Dots to Explain Teen Deaths from Bloomberg News)

2.6 million General Motors (GM) cars have recalled because of a fault ignition switch. On March 28, GM announced that 1.62 million cars from model years 2007 and earlier will be recalled, and they expanded the recall to 971,000 additional later-model cars.  Due to the faulty switches, there have been 13 deaths caused by problems with the defective ignition switch, but the number may be higher (retrieved from the New York Times article).

GM also stated that those cars are safe to drive as long as the cars are repaired. To eliminate unnecessary weight, GM suggested the car owners to remove everything from the key ring except the ignition key. In the New York Times Article,  Mary T. Barra, the CEO of GM, told Congress that she would allow her own child to drive one of the cars, with a stripped-down key ring. Also, along with their statement, GM stated that they had enough safety tests about the faulty switches to support their statement.

According to Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tried to answer for failing to protect consumers. GM currently submitted more than 200,000 pages of documents to prove what went wrong with the automaker’s ignition switch to federal safety regulators.

(Shouldn’t GM Get Death Penalty for the 57 Cent Murder? from The Big Picture RT)

Like the video above, media focused on the fact that GM knew about the ignition switch issues in their cars, but they kept in silence for a decade. It became issue that the company did not do anything about the issue for the duration, and there have been 13 deaths due to this problem.

How GM has been handling this crisis

(GM CEO: “We Will Hold Ourselves Accountable” for the Recalls from CBS Evening News)

Overall, Mary Barra, the first female CEO of GM has got credits for handling and navigating the crisis well. According to one article from Forbes,

”  Ms. Barra struck exactly the right tone: calm, in control, honestly sympathetic, yet not going to be pushed into a statement she did not want to make. She was unfailingly polite, and seemed dedicated to finding out the truth, and then to addressing it head-on. She did not grandstand nor was she flustered; she did not defer nor did she deflect the criticism, but she did stand up to her questioners when they were not clear, in a way that was neither angry, nor defensive, nor subservient.”

GM has been currently facing  this massive issue, but they are handling this immense crisis really well. Public has had impressions that the company is actually being responsible for it and being sincere to their apology to the families who lost their loved ones due to this problem.

Press Handling





  • GM’s Press Room/ GM Ignition Switch Website: GM has its own press room and created a website related to the ignition switch safety. Through both sites, they have released up-to-date information about the crisis. It has allowed public to follow what has been currently going on and what processes the company has done. 
  • CEO Press Presence : The CEO has been on the media and actually made a statement that the company is sorry for what happened, and they will account every actions and results the issue has brought. CEO’s presence on media press gives more credibility when crisis happens, and GM is making right approach and doing good PR.

Social Media Handling


  • Facebook :  There is only one Facebook post that is related to this issue. The above picture is the most current post from their Facebook page. I think they could have released more posts related to the issue such as posting apology statement when the crisis just happened. Since social media is a facilitator for delivering and sharing information and managing relationship, it could help the company to  easily deliver its own thoughts and apologies to the public.  However, the picture with the post gives audiences good readability and clear information with less texts.


  • Twitter : GE used Twitter as a key social media platform. Ever since the issue has been out to the public, GE twitted up-to-date information. Especially, the CEO’s Twitter usage is very smart movement. It shows engagement with their audiences, and this platform has mediated as acting like a bridge between the company and the audiences.

General Motor’s handling over the crisis has been well recognized by public. Their PR movement is smart, and the CEO is navigating this massive crisis. It will be good to watch and look over the GE’s future movement handling the issue.



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