NHTSA chief to say regulators did everything they could

Barra's message to Congress: 'I am deeply sorry'

NHTSA chief to say regulators did everything they could

Mary Barra: "When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers."
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WASHINGTON -- General Motors CEO Mary Barra will tell lawmakers investigating the botched handling of an ignition-switch defect that she is “deeply sorry” for the error and promises to be fully transparent once the company discovers what went wrong, according to prepared testimony released 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 says in prepared remarks to a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight panel that will hear testimony Tuesday on the unfolding ignition switch crisis.

“When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.”

Barra’s remarks contain little new additional information on GM’s handling of the switch defect, which prompted a recall of small cars in February, aside from saying that GM has asked Delphi to add a third production line for replacement switches.

The company on Friday extended the recall to 971,000 later-model vehicles to root out any faulty switches that were used as replacement parts. A GM spokesman said all 2.6 million vehicles covered by the recall will get new switches.

Regulators, for their part, don’t intend to admit fault. David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, plans to tell members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that his agency is “deeply saddened by the loss of life” in GM’s defective cars -- but he will insist that regulators did everything they could based on the information they knew at the time.

David Friedman: "We are not aware of any information to suggest that NHTSA failed to properly carry out its safety mission."

“We are not aware of any information to suggest that NHTSA failed to properly carry out its safety mission based on the data available to it and the process it followed,” Friedman’s prepared remarks say.

“This was a difficult case pursued by experts in the field of screening, investigations and technology involving airbags that are designed to deploy in some cases but not others,” he will go on to say. “GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.

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