(CBS Connecticut) General Motors Co. said it is recalling 1.5 million vehicles worldwide, because the electronic power-steering assist can suddenly stop working, making them harder to steer. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal is among those calling for GM to make a stronger statement and tell owners to stop driving their cars immediately. Blumenthal believes GM made a decision to hide the defect of ignition switches. Blumenthal along with Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey is introducing legislation aimed at better auto safety reporting.
The measure would require auto companies to give federal regulators more information about fatal crashes. Blumenthal says he and Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey proposed the bill after the 12 deaths and 31 reported crashes linked to GM’s ignition switch recall.
Meantime, the CEO of General Motors apologized for an ignition switch defect that was linked to more than a dozen deaths and which triggered a massive vehicle recall — in prepared testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
CEO Mary Barra testified on Tuesday before the committee about the defect, amid mounting questions over what GM and others could have done to prevent it.
In prepared remarks, Barra vowed that the company will be “fully transparent” and “will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future.”
“Today’s GM will do the right thing,” she said. “That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall — especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured. I am deeply sorry.”
She noted that the company has named a new vice president for Global Vehicle Safety, and said customers affected by the recall “are getting our full and undivided attention.”
New details about the defect have been emerging from the committee in advance of the hearing. One letter from committee members said General Motors officials approved a sub-standard design for ignition switches back in 2002.
Further, congressional investigators said federal regulators had declined on two separate occasions to open formal probes into complaints about the ignition switch defect in certain General Motors cars.
The findings from the House Energy and Commerce Committee emerged as part of a continuing investigation into events surrounding GM’s eventual recall of 2.6 million small cars due to the defect, which has been linked to 13 deaths in traffic accidents. The investigators also determined that GM rejected a proposed fix for the problem in 2005 due to both the length of time needed for repair and the costs involved.
In response to the panel, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement Sunday saying it had “reviewed data from a number of sources in 2007, but the data we had available at the time did not warrant a formal investigation.”
The cars were recalled by GM due to a flaw which causes ignition switches to move from the “run” to the “accessory” or “off” position, which causes the car to stall and disables the air bags and power steering. The recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky from the 2003-2011 model years.
GM also announced a new recall on Monday of more than 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix a problem that could cause the sudden loss of power steering.
The new recall brings to 6.3 million the number of vehicles GM has recalled since February. The initial recall – now at 2.6 million small cars for an ignition switch defect – prompted the automaker to name a new safety chief and speed up the review of cases that might lead to recalls. GM said it expects recall-related costs to total $750 million in the first quarter, including $300 million for the ignition switch recall.