WASHINGTON -- If you boil it down, few new facts emerged from Tuesday’s frenzied four-hour U.S. House hearing on General Motors’ recall crisis, prompted by a faulty ignition switch that GM has linked to dozens of crashes and at least 13 deaths.
GM CEO Mary Barra stuck to script beautifully. In two hours of testimony, she told members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the company made “unacceptable” mistakes, that an investigation will sort out how those mistakes happened and that she wants to know the answers as badly as Congress does.
David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was pressed by lawmakers to explain how the agency missed the fact that the ignition switch could turn off the airbags in GM’s cars. He, too, deftly argued his case, saying that other factors could have caused the airbags not to deploy -- and a statistical analysis by the agency did not show GM vehicles were more problematic.
“I wish these crashes were as simple as they appear to be,” Friedman told lawmakers at hearing’s end. “I wish the connection was as direct as we now know it is.”
It will be a while until the chain of events becomes clear. Congress and NHTSA are gathering reams of documents from both GM and the government; expect them to trickle out over the coming weeks, shedding light on the truth one batch of records at a time.
But the Tuesday hearing gave a strong indication of which way things are headed on Capitol Hill, as GM struggles to make things right with its customers and come to terms with the mistakes made over the course of a decade.
Here are three main takeaways: