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Mary Barra Has to Tell America GM Is Sorry, Again and Again

Bret Kenwell

05/30/14 - 03:59 PM EDT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Motors (GM) keeps driving on.

Despite a ton of bad publicity over its seemingly endless recall announcements over its faulty ignition switches and the resulting coverup, sales at General Motors have yet to show any signs of serious weakness. Kelley Blue Book forecasts GM to add a 7.2% gain to May's auto sales.

Investors were very happy to hear CEO Mary Barra apologize for the problems that led to the recall and the resulting government fines when she testified before Congress. GM shares are currently trading around $34.50, down 15.6% for the year to date but are down a bit less than 1% for the preceding 52 weeks.

However, it's the public who buys the cars and the fear is they will bypass GM and head over to buy at Ford (F), Toyota (TM) and elsewhere.

So Barra and the rest of the company need to do more to emphasize GM cars are still safe cars. They have to make it big, as befitting one of the world's largest car companies.

I suggest the company make a bold explanation and apology to the American public. Own up to its mistakes and explain it to everyone. Do it in the form of a TV ad. That's what GM could do to avoid bankruptcy.

This is not the first time GM has faced bad press, of course. It got a lot of it after its government bailout in 2009.

So if Mary Barra wants to do the right thing, let America know. Say "we're sorry." Explain why America should still buy the cars and still trust the brand. Buy time on every TV station for the ad. Make it the chatter of the U.S., even if it's short-lived. Put it on YouTube.

Don't just run the ad once or twice. Run over and over and over again. Make it 60 seconds long. Did America believe Barra's apology before Congress? Do people even know she testified?

Address the issue up front and maybe the automaker will regain respect rather than flack for doing so. It shows ownership and strength, not weakness. It would be commendable, not condemning.

A General Motors spokesman told me that the recent issues have had "no effect" on sales and that any suggestion future sales will fall is only speculation.
As to the speculation, GM had "no comment."

Still, would it hurt to go before America and say, "We're sorry?" I don't think so.

At the time of publication the author was long F.


This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.


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