DETROIT — (WWJ) After a year of playing defense with record recalls and four appearances before congress, GM CEO Mary Barra wants her company to start taking the offensive.

“I want it understood that they day of GM being a polite competitor is over,” said Barra, in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club.

“We will be ethical and demonstrate integrity in everything we do. But, we will be tough, unrelenting competitors.”

This is the latest step in Barra’s efforts to shake up a General Motors culture that has been accused of being afraid of taking risks, and more interested in passing the blame than taking responsibility. That culture was roundly criticized in an internal report published early this year into the company’s ignition switch recall.

There have been times in the past, Barra says, when GM hasn’t taken the offensive, because it wasn’t in the company’s culture to do so.

“We need to be a fierce competitor, and I think that’s a positive thing.”

In her speech, and a question session afterwards, Barra did not give specific details of a new $300 million investment in Michigan facilities, but did say that the next generation Chevrolet Volt electric car will have more power and a longer range.

“The scorecard from the first generation of Volt is good, but it’s not everything we wanted,” she said. “But, we have accomplished a great deal, we have learned a great amount, including that breakthrough technology doesn’t always advance in a straight line.”

The next generation Volt will be introduced at January’s North American International Auto Show. It will be built at GM’s Detroit Hamtramk plant, with production of the electric motor moved from Mexico to GM’s Warren Transmission Plant, just outside Detroit.

In an advance text of the speech, Barra admitted that sales of the first generation Volt haven’t been where GM wanted them to be. But that reference was omitted from the remarks she actually gave.

Lower gasoline prices have slowed sales of hybrids and electrified vehicles this year. But, Barra feels there will be interest an an all new Volt, especially among younger buyers.

“Consumers want good technological solutions.”

As a record year for recalls wraps up, Barra said GM has wound down the bulk of its recalls.

“I think we have very good sensing mechanisms in place. If we have an issue, wherever it comes from, we’re finding it quickly.”

There were a number of issues addressed in Barra’s speech, and the question and answer session following. She said the Cadillac CTS was her current favorite vehicle. But, “Over the lifetime, I have a strong commitment to Camaros.”

As she has in the past, Barra encouraged young people to include science and technology in their education, to work hard, and find a job they love to do. As for her first year on the job, asked “Is it hard doing what you do?”

“I don’t think there’s an easy job out there anymore. Every job requires that you come with energy and with passion.”

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