DETROIT –’ 2014 shareholders meeting comes to a close here with scant discussion of the recall crisis by shareholders.
No victims or families of victims injured as a result of faulty ignition switches in GM cars address company executives at the roughly 45-minute meeting.
Rather, the fewer than 10 shareholders who do speak express concern over a perceived lack of minority-business dealings by GM, a potential change in manufacturing wages and a need to improve sales and marketing schemes.
One shareholder expresses displeasure over GM’s hiring of famed fixer Kenneth Feinberg to determine a compensation protocol for those injured as a result of defective ignition switches in GM models, while another praises the automaker for choosing Feinberg, who oversaw a compensation program for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Several shareholders laud CEO Mary Barra for her handling of the recall crisis, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who also calls on GM to increase business with minority-owned enterprises.
“You have faced a crisis with integrity and courage and transparency,” he tells Barra.
Jackson notes GM’s minority-owned dealer store count is down from 750 before the recession to about 250 now, and he also says fewer minority suppliers now sell to GM. Two African American businessmen also address these issues.
“We have made progress and have more progress to make,” Barra tells Jackson of GM’s business with minority-owned enterprises.
A shareholder from Ann Arbor, MI, tells Barra he is worried about the comments of new UAW President Dennis Williams, who wants to eliminate the controversial 2-tier wage structure at UAW-represented auto plants.
“If that comes to pass, it will put the cost structure of GM once again to an uncompetitive level, and a dozen years from now it’s going to be back to bankruptcy and Congress will (not be as) forgiving,” he tells the CEO.
In her speech to investors, Barra lists various “good-news” achievements by GM, including its 285,000 vehicles delivered in May in the U.S., the automaker’s best tally since August 2008; a 10% uptick in China sales this year; plans to boost China JV production capacity by 30% to more than 5 million units annually by 2015; a strategy calling for Opel to introduce 27 new models and 17 new engines in Europe by 2018; and a revitalization of Chevrolet in South America.
She also expresses her continued regret for those injured or killed as a result of faulty ignition switches in GM vehicles and belief the automaker will overcome and thrive as a result of the switch debacle.
“Today GM is a very good company,” Barra says. “Tomorrow we can be a truly great company, but we can only achieve this goal if we hold each other to the highest possible standards.”
Items voted on at the meeting include shareholders’ approval of Joseph J. Ashton, vice president-UAW, as a director and the rejection of a shareholder proposal for an independent board chairman who has not served as an executive officer of a company before, during or after bankruptcy.
The latter would have prevented Barra from serving as chairman in the future. GM’s chairman of the board currently is Tim Solso, a former chairman and CEO of Cummins.