A US congressional committee has said it's investigating why carmaker General Motors had been late in initiating a recall over an unsafe ignition switch problem. GM itself admitted 13 deaths had been linked to the issue.
The United States House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed Tuesday the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had received a large number of complaints about a dangerous ignition switch problem in older GM cars in the past decade. But GM didn't recall some 1.6 million affected cars until last month.
Ignition switches in older Chevrolet Cobalts and five other GM models were found to potentially switch from the "run" position to "accessory" or "off" without warning, shutting off the engine and turning off power-assisted steering and brakes. The carmaker conceded 13 deaths and 31 crashes had been linked to that technical problem.
Committee chairman Fred Upton said the panel would seek information in the coming weeks on whether GM or the NHTSA missed something that could have flagged the issue earlier.
"If the answer is yes, we must learn how and why this happened, and then determine whether this system of reporting and analyzing complaints that Congress created to save lives is being implemented and working as the law intended," Upton commented.
GM could be fined up to $35 million (25.3 million euros), should evidence show it reacted too slowly to initial driver complaints. In the US, auto makers are required to report safety problems to the NHTSA within five days of learning about them.
The current inquiry surrounding the delayed recall is embarrassing for General Motors, a company that only left a painful bankruptcy in 2009 and has since bent over backwards to lure new customers.
hg/se (AP, dpa)