GM and Safety Agency Face Congress Over Recalls, Families of Victims Attend

Calling themselves “GM Recall Survivors,” families of victims of a General Motors safety defect in small cars hold photos of their loved ones as they gather on the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, during a news conference. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will look for answers today from GM CEO Mary Barra about a faulty ignition switch and mishandled recall of 2.6 million cars that’s been linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Calling themselves “GM Recall Survivors,” families of victims of a General Motors safety defect in small cars hold photos of their loved ones as they gather on the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, during a news conference. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will look for answers today from GM CEO Mary Barra about a faulty ignition switch and mishandled recall of 2.6 million cars that’s been linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The new CEO of General Motors and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog have headed to Congress to testify about a defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths. In written testimony released ahead of a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing, acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman says GM had information connecting defective ignition switches to the non-deployment of air bags, but didn’t share it until last month. The House hearing — and a separate one Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee — will also include in attendance at least a dozen family members of victims, wearing blue shirts featuring a photo of 16-year-old Amber Marie Rose, who was killed in a 2005 Cobalt crash, and the words “Protect Our Children.”

GM CEO Mary Barra will testify. Committee members will press Barra and Friedman to explain why neither the company nor the safety agency moved to recall millions of small cars with a defective ignition switch, even though GM knew of the problem as early as 2001. “Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in (the small car) program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in prepared testimony submitted to the subcommittee.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars for the faulty switch. That recall prompted GM to name a new safety chief and review its recall processes. GM continued its efforts to show regulators and consumers that it is more focused on safety, announcing the recall of 1.5 million more vehicles on Monday for a power steering problem.

GM has now recalled 6.3 million vehicles since February and the company estimates the actions will cost it $750 million.

This report compiled with information from the Associated Press.