Recalls and corruption probes reshaped the auto industry heading into 2020s

“One of the questions and things to watch in the next 10 years is were lessons learned or are manufacturers going to try and set the clock backwards?” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based nonprofit watchdog organization.

DETROIT — Mary Barra became one of America’s best-known executives when she took the helm as the first female CEO of General Motors in 2014. But the recognition quickly turned to criticism over the automaker’s deadly ignition switch recall scandal.

Less than three months after becoming the auto industry’s most powerful woman, Barra became the face of the crisis as she testified before Congress about defective ignition switches in millions of vehicles. The faulty parts would eventually be found to have been responsible for 124 deaths and 275 injuries.

GM spent billions in recall costs and settlements to victims and their families, including a $900 million fine as part of an agreement with the Justice Department after the Detroit automaker was charged with concealing information from government officials and wire fraud.

GM’s ignition switch scandal is one of many examples of how the global auto industry was held under a regulatory microscope in the 2010s for incidents its critics say failed the public as well as shareholders. Executives from Toyota, Volkswagen and Japanese auto supplier Takata were among the auto industry leaders to be called to Washington to answer for alleged corruption, misdeeds or safety issues in the 2010s.

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