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GM CEO to testify on recall next week at U.S. congressional hearing

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[June 12, 2014]  WASHINGTON (Reuters) - General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra will testify on June 18 at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on the automaker's defective ignition switch that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, the subcommittee said on Wednesday.

Barra and former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, who headed the company's internal investigation into the faulty part, will be the only witnesses at the hearing, the House oversight and investigations subcommittee said in a news release.

"Mr. Valukas' exhaustive report revealed disturbing truths about GM's systemic and cultural failures that allowed this problem to go undiagnosed for over a decade, but many questions remain unanswered about the recalls and resulting changes within the company," Representative Fred Upton, the full committee's chairman, and the subcommittee's chairman Representative Tim Murphy said in a statement.

Since early this year, the Detroit automaker has been enveloped in a scandal over why it took more than a decade to begin recalling low-cost Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other cars with ignition-switch problems that were causing the vehicles to stall during operation.

When the engines stalled, air bags failed to deploy during crashes - some of them fatal - and drivers struggled to control their vehicles as power steering and brake systems malfunctioned.

Barra testified at a subcommittee hearing in April and deflected many of the questions, saying she was awaiting the results of the Valukas probe.

GM fired 15 employees last week and disciplined five others for their handling of the recall after the release of the internal report, which said top GM officials, including Barra, knew few details about the defective switches.

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GM said Barra wants to update Congress on the actions the company has taken in response to the switch recall crisis, including fixing the failures outlined in the company's internal report, announcing plans to establish a victims' compensation fund and setting up a structure at the company to ensure vehicle safety.

(Reporting by Eric Beech, additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Sandra Maler and Chizu Nomiyama)

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