SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — General Motors has retained crisis-communications expert Jeff Eller as it builds a team to help respond to the recall of small cars with faulty ignition switches tied to 13 deaths.

Greg Martin, a spokesman for the Detroit-based company, confirmed that Eller will join the team guiding the automaker’s response to the recall. Eller had been director of media affairs in the Clinton White House, according to his LinkedIn page.

GM is adding experts with a history of managing crisis situations as it seeks to repair its reputation. This week, the company hired Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who managed funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to consider whether to compensate crash victims. Jenner & Block Chairman Anton Valukas, who prepared the report on the Lehman Brothers Holdings’ bankruptcy, recently joined GM to co-lead the internal probe of who knew what and when, about the ignition flaws.

“As we have from the start, we are drawing upon those who have deep experience and expertise in these matters,” Martin, the GM spokesman, said in an email Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra fielded pointed questions and accusations Wednesday from senators during a committee hearing on why it took the company so long to recall 2.59 million small cars with potentially faulty parts.

One senator said GM had a “culture of coverup” and another predicted it may face criminal liability.


“Getting new outside perspective and breaking that group think is an important statement of building trust,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a business professor at Yale University.

Barra will have to appear before the Senate panel again, said Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

“We haven’t heard the end of this yet,” said Heller, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce subcommittee probing the recall. “They’re going to have to come back, and Barra said she would.”

Barra was joined at the hearings this week by Mark Reuss, head of product development; Grace Lieblein, head of purchasing; and Bob Ferguson, head of Cadillac and former head of the company’s lobbying office. She was also joined by Michael, GM’s general counsel, and Selim Bingol, head of both communication and public policy.

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