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GM's Barra meets with victims' families

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(Crain News Service photo)
Mary Barra

From Crain News Service staff reports

DETROIT (April 1, 2014) — General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra held a tearful meeting late March 31 with several families of victims who died in GM vehicles that have been subject to recalls and investigations into faulty ignition switches.

“We told her about the loved one we lost because of GM’s defect,” Laura Christian, the mother of crash victim Amber Marie Rose, wrote on her Facebook page this morning. “Tears flowed and many Kleenex were used. At least by us.”

Amber Marie Rose Christian is shown on a Facebook page,“GM Recall Survivors,” set up by her mother, Laura Christian.

Ms. Barra’s meeting lasted about an hour at the GM office in Washington, D.C., on the eve of her testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee today.

Ms. Christian’s 16-year-old daughter was killed in July 2005, the first known fatality connected to GM’s faulty ignition switch. After the recall announcement finally explained why the airbag in Amber’s Chevrolet Cobalt failed — but revealed that GM had opportunities to act sooner — Ms. Christian devoted herself to digging for answers and trying to prevent more deaths.

A GM spokesman confirmed the meeting, but declined to discuss it further. “Out of respect to the families we are keeping details of the meeting private,” he wrote in an email.

Ms. Christian wrote that she and Ms. Barra disagreed about whether the cars being recalled are safe to drive. GM has said the cars subject to the recall can still be driven safely if the key in the ignition isn’t weighed down by other objects.

“I did get a positive answer regarding recall notification,” Ms. Christian added. “I was concerned that only original owners would receive a recall notice. She said they were trying to notify owners by their registration, meaning secondhand owners should receive notice.”

Ms. Christian wrote that her group today plans to hold a press conference touting legislation that could improve public access to auto makers’ safety reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced the bill on March 25. The legislation could lead to a broad overhaul of the nation’s auto safety laws.

“It also requires NHTSA to make information available in a meaningful way to all of us to prevent this from happening again,” Ms. Christian wrote.

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Reporters Nick Bunkley, Gabe Nelson and Philip Nussel contributed to this report, which appeared on autonews.com, the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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Titan International and the United Steelworkers union have petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce seeking relief from OTR tire imports from China, India and Sri Lanka. What’s your opinion?

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