In testimony prepared for a congressional
hearing on Tuesday, NHTSA acting Administrator David Friedman
said: "GM had critical information that would have helped
identify this defect."
GM has recalled 2.6 million cars to repair a defective ignition
switch that is linked to at least 13 deaths. The automaker has
said it first learned of problems with the part in 2001, before
the Saturn Ions, Chevy Cobalts and other recalled models were
The Center for Auto Safety and other watchdog groups have
criticized NHTSA for not opening a formal investigation in 2007,
when evidence had mounted of the deadly defect.
But Friedman, who joined the agency last year, said NHTSA did
not have enough data to support a more extensive probe.
"The data available at the time of (the 2007) evaluation did not
indicate a safety defect or defect trend that would warrant the
agency opening a formal investigation," he said.
Friedman said the GM cars that had since been recalled generally
had the same rate of accidents and injuries as similar vehicles
from other manufacturers.
He called the GM probe "a difficult case," but defended his
"We are not aware of any information to suggest that NHTSA
failed to properly carry out its safety mission based on the
data available to it and the process it followed," Friedman
(Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by Peter Cooney)
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