Barra told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that she was disturbed by past GM comments that the cost of replacing defective switches in some cars, that have now been recalled, was too high, adding that the company had moved from a "cost culture to a customer culture."
She also informed the committee that the company had commissioned Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw victims compensation funds after the Sept. 11 attacks, to help in its response to the crisis and to conduct an investigation.
Barra was grilled by committee members, but on multiple occasions was unable to answer specific questions, referring lawmakers to the ongoing investigation.
Laura Christian, the mother of Amber Marie Rose, who died in 2005 when the airbag in her Chevy Cobolt didn't deploy after she struck a tree in Maryland, said the victims were just the "cost of doing business" for GM.
"Fighting the problem was cheaper and easier than fixing the problem," Christian said of GM executives.
About 30 family members met with Barra and two GM attorneys Monday night. All got a chance to tell their stories, but Christian said they got little reaction. "A lot of, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,'" Christian said. GM would not comment on details of the meeting.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is among those calling for GM to now make a stronger statement and tell owners of certain cars to stop driving immediately.
"[GM] has failed to warn sufficiently that these drivers of these particular models are unsafe at any speed behind that wheel," he said. "Until they are repaired, they should not be driven."