GM, NHTSA Testify on Ignition Switch Recall; Members Demand Answers on Why Safety Process Failed

April 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), today held a hearing with General Motors CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator David Friedman to investigate the GM ignition switch recall and why it took over a decade to announce the recall after red flags and warning signs first surfaced.  

The committee launched its bipartisan investigation three weeks ago after reports revealed both GM and NHTSA received safety complaints related to stalling, ignition switches, and airbag non-deployment but failed to take action. In response to the committee’s letters, GM and NHTSA have provided over 235,000 documents and the productions continue. The committee’s findings so far suggest there were many missed opportunities over the years to identify the defect and protect drivers. 

“We know this: the red flags were there for GM and NHTSA to take action — but they didn’t,” said Murphy.  

Members questioned GM’s Barra over what the company knew of the safety issues, when they knew it, and why they failed to take immediate action. Murphy referenced an internal email from 2005 discovered by the committee that acknowledged the ignition switch problem, and stated, “Cobalt is blowing up in their face.” While Barra apologized for the lives lost and the past safety failures, she was not able to provide answers on how and why action to fix the problems was not taken sooner. 

Questions were also directed toward NHTSA’s Friedman as to why NHTSA chose not to open an investigation after receiving complaints that air bags were not deploying. Documents revealed that the agency considered investigating airbags in Cobalts in 2007, but ultimately decided there was not a trend and did not pursue further action.

Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) signaled the investigation would continue until the committee gets the answers it needs to ensure safety on the roads. “With a two-ton piece of high-velocity machinery, there is zero margin for error; product safety is a life or death issue,” said Upton. “We will follow the facts where they lead us. And we will work until we have those answers, and can assure the public that they are safe.”

To view pictures from today’s hearing, click HERE