In Congress, condemnation skills are shared equally by liberals and tea partiers. Thus, California Sen. Barbara Boxer told Barra "You don't know anything about anything," while two former prosecutors who became senators, one a Democrat and one a Republican, pursued the topic of criminal liability. So it is not surprising that Barra seemed to have little to say to Congress.
She was, however, generally candid in the question-and-answer period at Tuesday's forum. A telling moment came when Stein noted that after all of the furor GM's corporate communications chief had left, in the typical terminology, to pursue other interests. "Really?" Stein asked archly, and Barra acknowledged that "you've got to take the right actions to have an A plus team."
Of course, the real test of GM's resilience will not be how observers evaluate Barra's public appearances, but rather in whether the company can retain market share and continue to produce good financial results, because consumers are always the ultimate judges of how a company is performing.
Among auto analysts, including three who spoke at the forum Tuesday, the consensus is that automakers generally recover from recalls. That is also the view of Larry Dominique, president of ALG, which assigns residual values to new cars.
So far, Dominique said, "we haven't seen a big drop off in (GM) product value." Comparing the GM recall to the 2009-2010 Toyota accelerator pedal recalls, he said that Toyota (TM) suffered a "pretty rapid drop in brand values (and) market share, but they recovered rapidly. They had enough brand good will that helped them recover." He added that residual valuation is a lagging indicator, so the full impact remains to be seen.
"GM does not have an image as a top-tier quality brand, although they're better than they used to be," Dominique said. "They could get hurt less (than Toyota) but we would expect to see some falloff."
One thing that works to GM's benefit, he noted, is that names most affected by the recall -- Cobalt, Pontiac and Saturn -- no longer exist. Their residual values diminished long ago.
-- Written by Ted Reed in New York
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