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GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress will press General Motors’ new CEO at a hearing Tuesday about why GM sold cars with an ignition switch that failed to meet its own specifications, and then failed to heed the recommendations of engineers to fix the part.

In all, they will want to know why it took GM a decade to recall cars with the faulty switches, which the company now links to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes.

Some current GM car owners and relatives of those who died in crashes are also in Washington seeking answers. The group held a press conference where they demanded action against GM and stiffer legislation to prevent serious auto vehicle problems.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted the automaker to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes. The company says new switches should be available starting April 7. Concerned owners can ask dealers for a loaner car while waiting for the replacement part.

Lawmakers will also seek answers Tuesday from the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s auto safety watchdog, about why the agency failed to investigate the GM cars despite numerous complaints from consumers about the cars stalling. Also, one of its top defects investigators proposed an investigation of the GM cars for air bags not deploying in 2007. A NHTSA panel decides not to open an investigation, according to a timeline released by the House subcommittee holding the hearing.

Whether members will get the answers they’re seeking is unclear. In prepared remarks, Barra says she doesn’t know “why it took years for a safety defect to be announced,” but that “we will find out.” GM has hired an outside attorney to lead an investigation of the company’s safety processes.

In his prepared remarks, NHTSA chief David Friedman points the finger at GM, saying the automaker had information last decade that could have led to a recall, but only shared it last month.

The victims’ families will attend the hearing, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Laura Christian, birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a teenager who died in a 2005 Maryland crash involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, said about 30 family members met with Barra and two GM attorneys Monday night. She 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.

House Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said Tuesday that Democratic committee staff members found 133 warranty claims filed with GM over 10 years detailing customer complaints of sudden engine stalling when they drove over a bump or brushed keys with their knees.

The claims were filed between June 2003 and June 2012.

“GM shouldn’t be receiving information over a 10-year period and not taking action to either inform the public or recall the vehicles,” Waxman said.

Renee Trautwein, whose daughter Sarah Trautwein died while driving a 2005 Cobalt in June 2009 in South Carolina, said she is “sickened” by revelations that GM had multiple warranty claims about the problem yet did nothing.

“I think they should be taken off the road today,” she said of the recalled GM cars.

Durbin reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress will press General Motors’ new CEO at a hearing Tuesday about why GM sold cars with an ignition switch that failed to meet its own specifications, and then failed to heed the recommendations of engineers to fix the part.

In all, they will want to know why it took GM a decade to recall cars with the faulty switches, which the company now links to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes.

Some current GM car owners and relatives of those who died in crashes are also in Washington seeking answers. The group held a press conference where they demanded action against GM and stiffer legislation to prevent serious auto vehicle problems.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted the automaker to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes. The company says new switches should be available starting April 7. Concerned owners can ask dealers for a loaner car while waiting for the replacement part.

Lawmakers will also seek answers Tuesday from the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s auto safety watchdog, about why the agency failed to investigate the GM cars despite numerous complaints from consumers about the cars stalling. Also, one of its top defects investigators proposed an investigation of the GM cars for air bags not deploying in 2007. A NHTSA panel decides not to open an investigation, according to a timeline released by the House subcommittee holding the hearing.

Whether members will get the answers they’re seeking is unclear. In prepared remarks, Barra says she doesn’t know “why it took years for a safety defect to be announced,” but that “we will find out.” GM has hired an outside attorney to lead an investigation of the company’s safety processes.

In his prepared remarks, NHTSA chief David Friedman points the finger at GM, saying the automaker had information last decade that could have led to a recall, but only shared it last month.

The victims’ families will attend the hearing, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Laura Christian, birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a teenager who died in a 2005 Maryland crash involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, said about 30 family members met with Barra and two GM attorneys Monday night. She 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.

House Energy and Commerce Committee member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, said Tuesday that Democratic committee staff members found 133 warranty claims filed with GM over 10 years detailing customer complaints of sudden engine stalling when they drove over a bump or brushed keys with their knees.

The claims were filed between June 2003 and June 2012.

“GM shouldn’t be receiving information over a 10-year period and not taking action to either inform the public or recall the vehicles,” Waxman said.

Renee Trautwein, whose daughter Sarah Trautwein died while driving a 2005 Cobalt in June 2009 in South Carolina, said she is “sickened” by revelations that GM had multiple warranty claims about the problem yet did nothing.

“I think they should be taken off the road today,” she said of the recalled GM cars.

Durbin reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors’ new CEO and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog are headed to Congress to testify about a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

GM continued its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it is more focused on safety, announcing the recall of 1.5 million more vehicles on Monday for a power steering problem.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Laura Christian, birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a teenager who died in a 2005 Maryland crash involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, said about 30 family members met with Barra and two GM attorneys Monday night.

All got a chance to tell their stories to GM’s new CEO, 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.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors’ new CEO and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog are headed to Congress to testify about a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

GM continued its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it is more focused on safety, announcing the recall of 1.5 million more vehicles on Monday for a power steering problem.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Laura Christian, birth mother of Amber Marie Rose, a teenager who died in a 2005 Maryland crash involving a Chevrolet Cobalt, said about 30 family members met with Barra and two GM attorneys Monday night.

All got a chance to tell their stories to GM’s new CEO, 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.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors’ new CEO and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog are headed to Congress on Tuesday to testify about a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch.

GM has now recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM, safety agency face Congress over recalls

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — The head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog is blaming General Motors for a failure to act sooner to warn consumers of a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.

For its part, GM continues its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it’s more focused on safety, announcing the recall of another 1.5 million vehicles on Monday.

In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month.

GM CEO Mary Barra will also testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes.

With Monday’s recall, GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February. GM estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

The House hearing – and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee – will likely be tense and emotional. At least a dozen family members of victims will attend, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

Barra will apologize for the loss of life, but may try to limit her answers to Congress, citing an ongoing internal review and government investigations.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers,” she said in the prepared testimony.

That could test the patience of committee members, who will want to know immediately why GM failed to protect its customers in this case.

Congress also wants to know if it needs to strengthen a 2000 law intended to improve communication between automakers and the government.

Here are some questions lawmakers are likely to ask Barra and Friedman, and why:

GM

Q: Why did it take so long to recall these vehicles?

GM’s own timeline, provided to the government, indicates that it knew as early as 2001 that there were problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion. That switch was later used in the Cobalt and other cars. GM eventually learned of accidents and fatalities linked to the switch, and conducted multiple reviews. Yet the cars were only recalled this year. Barra will need to explain why GM didn’t act sooner.

Q: Why was a proposed fix never implemented?

According to a timeline prepared by the House subcommittee, GM engineers developed a fix for the switch in 2004, but it was canceled in 2005 because of its long lead time and cost. Engineers also devised a new key design that would prevent the key from falling out of the ignition, which caused the engine to stall. The fix was approved but later canceled. Lawmakers will want to know why, and who was involved. Barra may not be willing to name names at this point. She has said she only learned of the problem last December, shortly after being named CEO.

- Q. Shouldn’t GM tell owners to stop driving the recalled cars until they are fixed?

GM insists that the cars are safe as long as owners remove anything extra from their key chains, to avoid weighing down the ignition switch. And dealers have permission to give loaner cars to concerned customers until GM can fix their cars. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who sits on the Senate subcommittee, is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately.

NHTSA

- Q. Why didn’t NHTSA open an investigation, which is often the first step toward a recall?

As early as 2005, the agency had numerous consumer complaints, service bulletins GM sent to dealers describing the ignition problems and data from a fatal crash in Maryland. And in late 2007, one official recommended investigating reports that air bags in the cars weren’t deploying. An agency panel decided against that because it said a trend wasn’t evident.

- Q. Did NHTSA get enough information from GM?

Safety regulators have sent GM a special order to get more information on the recall, but the automaker’s response isn’t due until Thursday.

In his remarks, Friedman says the agency would have ordered the recall if it had the information GM provided only recently. But safety experts say there was other available information at the time that warranted a recall.

- Q. Does NHTSA have the staff and expertise to deal with the volume of data it’s getting?

After the Ford-Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s, Congress required automakers to report more information to the government about possible defects. NHTSA also gets more than 40,000 complaints per year from drivers. Lawmakers want to know if they agency has the resources to do its job.

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.