Congress hearings to put harsh spotlight on GM
Consulting materials engineer Mark Hood shows the ignition assembly which has a faulty 2005 ignition switch (black piece at left), in the mechanical testing laboratory at McSwain Engineering, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida, March 28, 2014.
The U.S. Congress will try to establish who is to blame for at least 13 auto-related deaths over the past decade, as public hearings are launched on Tuesday on General Motors’ slow response to defective ignition switches in cars.
Despite tougher laws being enacted in 2000 and 2010 to encourage automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to aggressively root out safety concerns, it took GM more than 10 years to acknowledge publicly that it had a potentially fatal problem.
Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is holding the first hearing, floated a new memo on Tuesday saying its analysis of documents found that GM still has not reported to federal regulators many cases involving ignition-switch concerns registered by consumers and GM technicians.
“At the same time GM was receiving these consumer complaints, the company continued to deny any defect,” the House Democrats’ memo said. The memo was referring to 133 cases, some dating from June 2003, with the “vast majority” unreported.
The memo noted that while automakers must provide a broad summary of warranty data to NHTSA, there currently is no requirement that they proactively submit warranty claims to the agency.
So far, GM has recalled 2.6 million cars to replace ignition switches that could unexpectedly stall out engines, prevent airbags from deploying and make power brakes and power steering inoperable.