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GM’s CEO Mary Barra will give testimony on car recalls to U.S. House

By Tim Higgins and Jeff Plungis
Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON General Motors CEO Mary Barra plans to tell Congress that she still doesn’t know why it took so long for the automaker to recall 2.6 million vehicles linked to the deaths of 13 people, while promising eventual answers.

“Sitting here today, I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out,” Barra said in remarks prepared for her testimony Tuesday before a U.S. House hearing. “When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers.”

The remarks were posted on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s website.

Barra, who became CEO in January, is being asked to explain the handling of years of complaints linked to faulty ignition switches in the Chevrolet Cobalt and other cars. The switches, when jostled out of position, led to stalling cars and disabled air bags, GM has said. Lawmakers want to know why GM, though aware of the defects in 2001, didn’t recall the cars earlier.

In her written remarks, Barra reiterated apologies to those people affected by the recall, saying she was “deeply sorry.”

“I would like this committee to know that all of our GM employees and I are determined to set a new standard,” Barra said. “And I am encouraged to say that everyone at GM – up to and including our board of directors – supports this.”

She may be asked to respond to fresh indications that the automaker decided it would be too expensive to fix the flawed ignition switches. After months of studying ignition-switch failures in the Chevrolet Cobalt, GM canceled a proposed change in 2005, when a project engineering manager cited high tooling costs and piece prices, according to documents obtained by U.S. congressional investigators.

GM has recalled about 2.6 million cars since the revelations about the ignition flaw in February. Last week, it added 559,000 trucks and 200,000 Cruze compact cars to the recall for different safety issues.

Barra, 52, ran GM’s product development before she became CEO. She has apologized for the slow response that resulted in deaths.

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