Barra, NHTSA chief to appear before Senate panel day after House testimony

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DETROIT -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra will testify before a Senate panel on April 2 about GM's handling of the automaker's recall crisis, one day after appearing before a U.S. House committee.

A GM spokesman confirmed that Barra will take questions from the Senate Commerce Committee's Consumer Protection panel. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said last week that she would testify before it on April 1.

"She's ready to go," a GM spokesman said.

Acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief David Friedman also is expected to appear before both committees on the same days. The Detroit News earlier reported the pair's planned appearances before the Senate panel.

Lawmakers will question Barra and Friedman on their response to an ignition switch defect linked to 31 crashes and 12 front-passenger deaths.

The hearings will take place about five weeks after GM recalled 1.6 million older cars to replace defective ignition switches that could shut off the engine if nudged out of position.

Barra will have to answer questions about why it took more than a decade to order the repair. NHTSA is under scrutiny for failing to open an investigation into the defect.

Last week, Barra told reporters that she expected to speak for the company before lawmakers. She said she would likely apologize again for GM's handling of the recall and would vow to take care of customers.

"My message will be that we are focused on the customer. We are doing everything we can to support the customer and get their vehicles fixed," Barra said. "That I am very sorry for the loss of life that has occurred and we will take every step that we can to make sure that this never happens again."

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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