Tue, Apr 01, 2014 - Page 15 News List

GM failed to fix ignition defect twice: US Congress

AP, DETROIT, Michegan

Consulting materials engineer Mark Hood inspects a 2005 GM ignition switch in the mechanical testing laboratory at McSwain Engineering in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

General Motors Co (GM) discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect in 2005, but canceled both of them without taking action, according to a memo released on Sunday by the US House of Representatives subcommittee investigating GM’s handling of the defect and a subsequent recall.

GM last month recalled 2.6 million small cars because their ignition switches can move from the “run” to the “accessory” or “off” position, which causes the car to stall and disables the air bags and power steering.

GM says the recall is linked to 13 deaths.

The US Congress is investigating why GM did not recall the cars sooner, because it first found problems with the ignition switches in 2001.

It is also questioning federal regulators from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who did not investigate the cars despite evidence of a problem.

GM chief executive officer Mary Barra and NHTSA Administrator David Friedman are scheduled to appear today before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

The House memo provides new details about GM’s consideration — but ultimate rejection — of potential solutions.

According to the memo, GM engineers met in February 2005 to consider making changes to the ignition switch after reports it was moving out of position and causing cars to stall.

However, an engineer said the switch was “very fragile” and advised against changes.

In March 2005, the engineering manager of the Cobalt closed the case, saying an ignition switch fix would take too long and cost too much, and that “none of the solutions represents an acceptable business case.”

In May 2005, the company’s brand quality division requested a new investigation into ignitions turning off while driving, and a new review suggests changing the design of the key so it would not drag down the ignition. That proposal was initially approved, but later canceled.

In a statement released on Sunday, GM said it deeply regrets the events that led to the recall.

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