The Senate Commerce subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product
Safety and Insurance said on Wednesday that it will hold the first
in what could be several hearings on the faulty ignition switches,
which have been linked to 12 deaths.
The U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee
will hold a hearing on the same topic on April 1.
GM's chief executive, Mary Barra, and the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration's acting director, David Friedman, are
expected to testify at both hearings.
In February, GM recalled 1.6 million vehicles over concerns that the
switches could unexpectedly shut off engines and also make airbags
inoperable in crashes.
GM first learned of the ignition switch problems in 2001 and in
subsequent years consumers raised concerns repeatedly.
Congress wants to know why it took GM and the NHTSA so long to act
since the problem first surfaced.
Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who chairs the Senate panel,
said in announcing the hearing, "We have to make sure federal
regulators have the tools and information they need to prevent
life-threatening tragedies for consumers."
Also on Wednesday, Barra directly spoke to consumers about the
ignition problem for the first time in five videos posted on YouTube
and on a GM blog. (See
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In the videos, which each last for less than a minute, Barra said
the company is investigating how it failed to fix the defects sooner
and that she will ensure that this type of problem never happens
again at GM.
In one of the videos called "message to customers," Barra said: "We
will learn from this and we will be a better company."
In a video addressing the delay in recalling the vehicles, she said:
"Clearly the fact that it took over 10 years indicates that we have
work to do to improve our process and we are dedicated to doing
Barra also reiterated in one video that a limited supply of
replacement parts will be at car dealers by April 7 and parts for
every vehicle affected by the recall will be at dealers no later
(Reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington and Bernie Woodall in
Detroit; editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)
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