GM probe involves CEO
Mary Barra says she’s been interviewed in U.S. investigation of ignition switch issue.
Mary Barra has been interviewed by the Justice Department in its investigation of the automaker’s ignition switch problem.
General Motors Co. Chief Executive Mary Barra confirmed Tuesday that she has been interviewed by the Justice Department in its criminal probe of how the company handled a deadly ignition switch problem in older small cars.
Barra said that the interview happened last year and that she didn’t know when the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan would release the results of its probe.
“We have cooperated fully. We continue to do that,” she said. “It is their timeline,” she said about when charges could be filed.
Wire fraud probably is among the statutes being considered by federal investigators because GM used electronic communications to interact with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Investigators are focused on whether GM failed to notify the federal agency of the switch problems and potentially tried to hide them. Automakers must notify NHTSA within five days of finding out about a safety defect.
The switches in cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion can slip out of the run position, shutting off the engine and disabling power steering, power brakes and air bags. The problem has caused at least 111 deaths and hundreds of injuries. GM has acknowledged knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet it didn’t recall the 2.6 million cars until last year.
Last year the same U.S. attorney’s office forced Toyota Motor Corp. to pay a $1.2-billion civil penalty for delays and cover-ups in unintended acceleration cases. Toyota settled the case but acknowledged hiding information about defects. The Justice Department also filed a wire fraud charge against Toyota that will be dismissed in 2017 if the company complies with the terms of the settlement.
Also Tuesday, Barra said GM doesn’t need to merge with Fiat Chrysler to take advantage of its size to save money on building cars and trucks. She told reporters before GM’s annual meeting in Detroit that Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had emailed her about merging, but the proposal was dismissed by GM’s senior management and board.
GM is working with Ford Motor Co. on transmissions and Honda Motor Co. on hydrogen fuel cells and will look at opportunities with other automakers, Barra said. But GM expects to sell 10 million vehicles this year and is big enough to use its own size and scale to save money, she said.
Marchionne has been pushing for consolidation of automakers, saying the industry wastes capital developing engines, transmissions and other parts that buyers don’t care about. But no companies have agreed to merger talks, he said.
GENERAL MOTORS CEO Mary Barra tells reporters before GM’s annual meeting that Fiat Chrysler’s CEO emailed her about merging, but the proposal was dismissed by GM’s senior management and board.