GM Exec Testifies About Ignition Issue, Attorney Hired
DETROIT (AP/WGGB) — Congress had some questions today for GM’s new CEO, and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog.
Lawmakers want to know why it took years for GM to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though the company knew of the problem as early as 2001. The defect is linked to 13 deaths.
Documents submitted to Congress by General Motors show the piece needed to fix the switch would have cost just 57 cents.
At the hearing on Capitol Hill today, members of a House subcommittee demanded answers from new GM CEO Mary Barra about why the automaker used the switch in small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion even though GM knew the part didn’t meet its own specifications.
Rep. Diana DeGette held up a switch to show how easy it was for a light set of keys to move the ignition out of the “run” position. That can cause the engine to stall and the driver to lose power steering and power brakes.
Since February, GM has recalled 2.6 million cars over the faulty switch.
Barra has repeatedly told the panel the answers to their questions will be part of GM’s internal investigation of the matter.
In the meantime, General Motors has hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to explore ways to compensate victims of accidents connected to defective ignition switches in its small cars. GM CEO Mary Barra announced Feinberg’s hiring during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.
Feinberg, an expert in disaster fund management, handled the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund as well as funds for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and the BP oil spill.
Under terms of its 2009 bankruptcy, GM is shielded from liability for injuries that happened before the bankruptcy. But some consumer advocates want the company to set up a fund for victims.
For more on cars affected by the recall, please click here.