Mary Barra, tested by GM’s ignition switch recall image

Barra, the world’s first female CEO in the auto industry, just settled in the top position at General Motors and is already facing a tough challenge that would test her leadership abilities.

With an ignition switch recall that went awry, calling for the return and fix of around 1.6 million cars and linked so far to 13 deaths, Barra faces her first big test with a hands –on approach behind the scenes.

She ordered an internal investigation and she has been deeply focused on the issue since she found out about it in late January – just two weeks after she became CEO. With most of the affected cars in North America, GM has said it would only start next month fixing the affected cars – when the parts become available. The recall has been ordered to resolve an issue that may inadvertently cause the engine and other components – including critical safety systems, like airbags – to unintentionally turn off, even when driving.

“Mary believes that her time is best spent on making the recall work as smoothly as possible for our customers,” said GM chief spokesman Selim Bingol. “Meanwhile, GM is keeping our customers informed about the recall while working to provide timely responses to questions from regulators.”

While such recalls are not unusual, the high number and deaths and the fact the company stretched the issue over the course of a decade has prompted the NHTSA into opening an investigation and may cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage from the ensuing lawsuits.

Via Reuters