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Congress to investigate GM ignition recall

Investigations will center around whether the automaker waited too long before issuing the recall, and to compound GM's trouble, the NHTSA and Justice Department are also investigating the matter.

By Ananth Baliga
The 2004 Saturn ION Quad Coupe is one of the cars being recalled. (Credit:GM)
The 2004 Saturn ION Quad Coupe is one of the cars being recalled. (Credit:GM)

WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- Congress will investigate the GM ignition recall and has asked the beleaguered company to respond to a documentation request.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee asked General Motors a total of 107 questions and also asked for a timeline of reports submitted by the carmaker to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency which oversees vehicle recalls.

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“The committee will examine whether GM knowingly allowed faulty and dangerous cars to remain on the road,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking member on the committee. “We will be assessing whether NHTSA has all the tools the agency needs to keep drivers safe.”

GM has recalled up to 1.6 million vehicles, largely due to an ignition problem that can move out of the normal 'on' position while driving, leading to a loss of power and deactivation of airbags, which could be dangerous in an accident. The ignition problem was linked to at least 31 crashes and 13 deaths before GM recalled the vehicles.

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According to the NHTSA, it did not receive timely information from GM regarding the recall.

"The thing that really changed here that I think is really important for everyone to consider is GM recalled these vehicles -- and when GM recalled these vehicles we got new information that made a direct connection between the defect in their ignition switches and airbags not going off. If we had that information, if GM had provided us with timely information, we would have been able to take a different course with this," said David Friedman, acting administrator of the NHTSA.

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GM was allegedly aware of the issue in 2004 and an engineer proposed a new design that could handle the weight of the key ring, a major part of the problem, but the revised design was later canceled.

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GM could be facing a federal investigation and the NHTSA could opt to fine GM $35 million if it is proven that GM didn't recall the vehicles in a timely fashion.

[WashingtonPost] [The Detroit News] [House Energy and Commerce Committee]

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