Congress says GM failed to fix the defect twice

Posted Mar 31, 2014

General Motors had discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect in 2005, but both of them were cancelled without taking action, according to a memo that was released by the House subcommittee on Sunday.

Last month, General Motors recalled 2.6 million small cars because its ignition switches can move from a “run” to the “off” position. This causes the car to stall and disable air bags. The recall is connected to 13 deaths. The General Motors recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky — the 2003-2011 model years.

U.S. Congress is investigating why General Motors did not recall the cars soon because the auto giant found issues with the ignition switches in 2001. Congress will also question federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for not investigating the cars.

GM CEO Mary Barra and NHTSA Administrator David Friedman will be appearing before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee tomorrow. A Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. GM engineers met in February 2005 to consider making changes to the ignition switch after reports that there were issues. A GM engineer said that the switch was “very fragile” and had advised making changes, according to a memo.

An engineering managing of the Cobalt closed the case in March 2005 by saying that an ignition switch fix would take too long and would cost too much. In May 2005, GM’s brand quality division requested another investigation into ignitions turning off while people were driving. A change of the key design was suggested so that it would not drag down the ignition. The proposal was approved, but cancelled later on. General Motors said that it regrets the events that led to the recall.