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It has been Ms. Barra's goal since taking over in January and learning the depth of the crisis to bring some agility to the automaking behemoth when it's confronted with such issues. Word is that the company is committed to taking all such situations seriously and reacting quickly. Seeing will be believing.
Like its global competitor Toyota, which has finally admitted its cover-up of unintended acceleration issues in its cars that also caused deaths, GM will face the court of public opinion. Those who might have considered the brand may choose to shop elsewhere.
Moreover, it is a discouraging turn of events given the company's upturn in business after the bailout--or rather investment of public funds--that saved the automaker from ruin. Despite its former bankruptcy declaration, which some say could shield GM from liability, it must, as Ms. Barra said, "do the right thing" for those affected.
If these 13 deaths are to be given the meaning they deserve, it will be in a lesson learned by any corporate structure to face such issues head-on, rather than hope they remain out of sight, out of mind.