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GM names new safety chief amid newest recall scandal

CHICAGO--General Motors named a new vehicle safety chief Tuesday in response to a growing scandal over its failure to react to an ignition switch defect linked to 12 deaths.

In the newly created position of vice president for global vehicle safety, Jeff Boyer will have responsibility for the safety during development and testing of GM vehicles.

He will also be responsible for monitoring reports of problems that occur with vehicles after they are sold, and issuing recalls as needed.

“This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability,” GM chief Mary Barra said in a statement.

“If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them.”

The largest U.S. automaker is facing multiple investigations by U.S. authorities over its slowness to react to evidence linking a defective ignition switch to 31 accidents and 12 deaths in various models.

The problem was detected at the pre-production stage as early as 2001, but GM waited until last month to recall 1.6 million vehicles in North America.

The ignition recall is the first big crisis for Barra, who took the company's helm on January 15 as the first woman to lead a major automaker.

Barra has responded forcefully, apologizing for the “terrible things” that happened after “something went wrong with our process” and vowing to make sure such mistakes don't happen again.

She offered her condolences to the families of victims Tuesday, but the Detroit News reported that she declined to comment on whether GM would accept liability for accidents that happened prior to its 2009 emergence from bankruptcy.

“Clearly lives have been lost and lives have been affected and that is very serious,” Barra told reporters in Detroit.

“We want to extend our deep condolences for those losses.”

Barra launched an internal probe which resulted in the recall of nearly 1.8 million more vehicles Monday, for three different defects unrelated to the ignition problems.

Boyer, 58, has spent nearly 40 years in a wide range of engineering and safety positions at GM. He will provide regular updates to senior management and GM's board of directors.

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