WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers expressed disbelief Wednesday at General Motors’ explanation for why it took 11 years to recall millions of small cars with defective ignition switches, and also confronted its chief executive with evidence that the company dragged its feet on a similar safety issue in different vehicles.
CEO Mary Barra and attorney Anton Valukas, who recently released a 315-page investigative report into the recall, endured skepticism and some lecturing at a House subcommittee hearing. One member described the actions of some employees outlined in the report as "insane."
Barra made her second appearance before the committee since GM recalled 2.6 million small cars in February, as families of some of the people who died in crashes in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions looked on. She was again pressed on whether GM’s commitment to safety has changed much.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., read a 2005 e-mail from a GM employee whose 2006 Chevrolet Impala stalled after its ignition slipped out of position while she was driving it. "I’m thinking big recall," the employee wrote -- but that recall never came until this week.
Upton asked Barra what GM would do with such an e-mail if it was sent today, and Barra said GM would take "immediate action." She noted that GM has recently hired 40 more safety investors.
The small-car recall is the subject of an ongoing Justice Department investigation, as well as probes by the House subcommittee and a panel in the Senate. It has also triggered a deeper look by federal regulators at ignition switches across the industry. On Wednesday, the government opened an investigation into reports of defective switches on 1.2 million Chrysler vehicles.
Lawmakers at the hearing were skeptical of many of the conclusions in Valukas’s report, which was paid for by GM and released June 5.