THE GM RECALL

Delphi CEO summoned to Capitol Hill on GM recall

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: "It is critically important that we understand the decisions made by Delphi and the company's interaction with GM.”

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WASHINGTON -- Delphi Automotive, which supplied the faulty ignition switch at the center of General Motors’ safety crisis, will join GM on Capitol Hill’s hot seat.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., today asked Delphi CEO Rodney O’Neal to testify alongside GM CEO Mary Barra at a July 17 hearing of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection panel, which McCaskill chairs.

The hearing will mark Barra’s fourth congressional appearance since GM recalled more than 2 million vehicles to replace the fatally flawed switch, which could easily be jolted or bumped out of position, cutting power to the airbags in a crash.

But it would be the first appearance for an executive from Delphi.

The supplier has cooperated with congressional investigators, contending that it followed GM’s design instructions, but faces lingering questions about its involvement in the design of a switch that GM has linked to dozens of accidents and 13 deaths.

“It is our understanding that a fix was proposed by Delphi regarding the ignition switch in 2005 but GM did not adopt the change,” McCaskill and three other high-ranking committee members wrote to O’Neal in an April letter. “As we continue evaluating the GM recall, it is critically important that we understand the decisions made by Delphi and the company’s interaction with GM.”

Delphi switched to a more robust design in 2006 after GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio asked for a part change without changing the part number.

Anton Valukas, the investigator hired by GM, told a U.S. House committee in June that Delphi didn’t cooperate with his inquiry, the findings of which he detailed in a 325-page report to the GM board.

Also invited to testify at the July 17 hearing are Valukas, as well as GM’s general counsel, Michael Millikin, and outside attorney Kenneth Feinberg, whom GM has hired to administer a compensation fund for victims of the faulty switch.

McCaskill’s office said the invitations to Barra, O’Neal, Valukas, Millikin and Feinberg were sent today, and that the five haven’t yet formally responded.

A spokesman for GM confirmed that Barra and Millikin will testify.

A Delphi spokeswoman, confirming O'Neal will testify, said, “We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the committee at next week's hearing.”

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

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