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GM CEO on recall: ‘Clearly this took too long’

For the first time since the recall of 1.6 million faulty ignition switches last month, General Motors CEO Mary Barra met with reporters to discuss steps the company is taking to deal with the crisis—and to avoid repeating it in the future.

During a 45-minute discussion with reporters at the automaker's Detroit headquarters, Barra on Tuesday shed little light about why GM was so slow to recall defective cars, except to say, "Clearly this took too long."

Barra, who was named CEO in December, also said she had no knowledge of the problems involving faulty ignition switches before the matter was brought to her attention that month, as the automaker was making a decision about a possible recall.

"Late December I knew that there was an issue being analyzed but [had] no details until after the recall decision was made," Barra told reporters. "Since that time, and almost immediately after we had that and submitted the paperwork to NHTSA, I notified the board and I have been keeping the board up to date."

The timeline of events surrounding the ignition switch recall, which has been blamed for the deaths of 12 people in 31 accidents, is a critical question for investigators. Specifically, they want to know who at GM knew what, when they knew it, and how quickly the automaker took action.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors.Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images

With the company at the center of four separate investigations, including a criminal probe by the Department of Justice, Barra has brought in outside law firms to do their own investigation into what went wrong.

That internal review is being headed by former U.S. Attorney Tony Valukas, who has already interviewed Barra. The CEO said she hopes the company's internal investigation will be completed within a couple weeks, but she admitted it could take a few months.

"Mr. Valukas has to go through 10 years of activity to make sure he has accurate and factual findings," Barra said.

(Read more: Critics question auto recall process)

"I have spoken with him and we won't sacrifice accuracy for speed, but we want to do this as quickly as possible so we can move forward. This is just a handful of steps that we are taking to make sure our recall process is going to be timely going forward. We want to have the most timely, efficient, accurate and responsive process," she said.

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Also Tuesday, Barra announced a new position to oversee how GM handles recalls, tapping a 40-year company veteran, Jeff Boyer, to fill the role.

As the new vice president of global vehicle safety, his responsibilities will include informing Barra and GM's top leaders—including the board of directors—about matters involving the safety of GM vehicles, including recalls.

(Read more: GM names new safety chief)

During the roundtable, Barra also issued another apology to the families of those who lost loved ones in accidents involving the recalled GM cars.

"I am very sorry for the loss of life that has occurred, and we will take every step that we can to make sure this does not happen again," she said.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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