The internal company probe is running parallel to a query from NHTSA on what steps the company took to investigate engineering concerns and consumer complaints dating from 2004.
GM has until April 3 to answer specific questions in a 27-page order the safety agency issued March 4.
GM last month said heavy key rings or jarring can cause ignition switches on some Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles to slip out of position, cutting off power and deactivating air bags. GM has now linked the defect to at least 23 crashes, including the 13 deaths.
The auto-safety regulator could fine GM as much as $35 million, which would be the most ever by the U.S., if it finds the automaker didn’t pursue a recall when it knew the cars were defective. The agency can also seek criminal charges.
Reputation at stake
GM CEO Mary Barra said March 4 she would lead senior executives monitoring progress on the recall, which includes Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 small cars. The company’s reputation may be driven by how it responds, she said.
GM “has acted without hesitation” to address the recall in the past few weeks, Barra said in a note on a Web site last week for employees. “We have much more work ahead of us.”
The initial recall on Feb. 13, limited to 778,562 Cobalts and G5s, was widened less than two weeks later to include more than 800,000 additional vehicles. Those vehicles include 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, the 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstice and the 2006-2007 Saturn Sky. Other models affected are the 2005-06 Pontiac Pursuit sold in Canada and the 2007 Opel GT sold in Europe.
GM North America President Alan Batey said in a Feb. 25 statement expanding the recall to the Saturn Ions and other models that the company’s “process employed to examine this phenomenon was not as robust as it should have been.” The automaker is preparing a second timeline related to the Feb. 25 recall expansion.
Bloomberg, David Phillips and Mike Colias contributed to this report.