General Motors said it was firing 15 employees on Thursday after an internal report found a pattern of "incompetence and neglect" that led to its failure to recall nearly two million late-model defective cars.
Faulty ignition switches in the cars have been blamed for 13 deaths going back to 2005, but the recall did not begin until the beginning of 2014. The controversy has badly damaged GM.
The report cleared GM's top executives, including CEO Mary Barra, who announced its results at a news conference.
"Repeatedly, individuals failed to disclose critical pieces of information that could have fundamentally changed the lives of those impacted by a faulty ignition switch. If this information had been disclosed, I believe in my heart the company would have dealt with this matter appropriately," she said.
"Furthermore, numerous individuals did not accept any responsibility to drive our organization to understand what was truly happening. The report highlights a company that operated in silos, with a number of individuals seemingly looking for reasons not to act, instead of finding ways to protect our customers."
The report was conducted by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. Barra described the investigation as "extremely thorough, brutally tough, and deeply troubling."
Barra has borne the brunt of sharp criticism from lawmakers since the recalls were announced at the beginning of this year.
The company's first female CEO, she took her position at the beginning of this year and told committees in the Senate and House that she was "deeply sorry" for the accidents that were caused by the company's faulty parts.
GM Board of Directors Chairman Tim Solso stressed that she was not at all implicated in the report.
“The Valukas report confirmed that Mary Barra, [GM Senior Vice President and General Counsel of General Counsel] Mike Millikin and [GM Executive Vice-President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain] Mark Reuss did not learn about the ignition switch safety issues and the delay in addressing them until after the decision to issue a recall was made on Jan. 31, 2014,” Solso said.
In addition to the 15 employees who were terminated, GM said five of its workers will receive disciplinary action for their roles in the failure to issue the recalls. The company did not pubicly release the names of the workers who were terminated.
GM said the report revealed there was "no conspiracy or cover-up" among the top-level executives of the company.
The initial GM recall involved 1.6 million cars that were made between 2004 and 2010 that were found to abruptly shut off because their ignition switches failed when they were contacted by things such as heavy key chains. The company told drivers to use key rings that had only their ignition key on them when they were operating their vehicles.
The cars that were affected by the recall were mostly models that the company no longer makes, including the Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion and the Pontiac G6.
Barra promised Thursday that the company would never allow a similar recall failure to occur again.
"Together, we have to understand that the attitudes and practices that allowed this failure to occur will not be tolerated,” Barra said. “Also, if we think that cleaning up this problem and making a few process changes will be enough, we are badly mistaken. Our job is not just to fix the problem. Our job must be to set a new industry standard for safety, quality, and excellence.”