GM brings back former comms head Harris for crisis response

General Motors has retained former PR leader Steve Harris to serve as its chief spokesperson for a limited time. He will aid the automaker's response to the decade-long delay in recalling Chevrolet Cobalts with faulty ignition switches.

DETROIT: General Motors has retained former PR leader Steve Harris to serve as its chief spokesperson for a limited time. He will aid the automaker’s response to the decade-long delay in recalling Chevrolet Cobalts with faulty ignition switches.

The issue has been linked to 13 deaths.

Retaining Harris’ services does not change GM’s comms strategy, Greg Martin, executive director of communications at the automaker told PRWeek.

"We continue to draw from a variety of expertise to help guide our response to the ignition switch recall," he said in a statement. "Harris' deep background with GM and proven experience will be of great help to us during this time."

Harris previously served in communications roles at GM in two separate multiyear stints. He held the top comms job at the company from 1999 to 2003 and again from 2006 to 2009.

Harris has been a partner at McGinn and Company, a crisis communications and reputation management firm, since 2011, according to his LinkedIn page. Prior, he was senior counselor at TMG Strategies. Harris also worked at DaimlerChrysler as VP of global communications and as director of product communications at American Motors, according to his LinkedIn profile.

His hire follows the company’s appointment last month of former Clinton White House crisis comms specialist Jeff Eller, who left his role as EVP and co-chair of Hill+Knowlton Strategies' global crisis practice in March to support GM with its response.

The automaker also retained Washington-based lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in March to explore compensation for families of accident victims. 

Last month, GM SVP of global communications and public policy Selim Bingol stepped down to "pursue other interests." The company’s executive director of communications and IR, Randy Arickx, is overseeing Bingol’s former duties on an interim basis.

Martin told the Associated Press that Bingol’s departure was not a result of the recall crisis, saying Barra, who has been in the CEO role for three months, was making her own hires for key positions.

"[Bingol’s] replacement has not yet been named," Martin told PRWeek. "We hope to announce something soon, but have no specific timeframe to give."

Martin said he was not aware of any new hires on the horizon.

Prominent communications pros also praised Harris’ hire on Twitter on Thursday morning.

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