Members of Congress tore into GM management during a heated Capitol Hill hearing probing fatal car wrecks linked to a defective part, claiming people died because the auto giant failed to fix what amounted to a 57-cent problem.
“We know that GM made a series of terrible decisions, and we know that this tragedy has exposed significant gaps in federal law that allowed them to do so,” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said.
General Motors’ new CEO, Mary Barra, and the head of the nation’s auto safety watchdog testified Tuesday before a House subcommittee, on the defect in small cars that is linked to 13 deaths.
Fueling the outrage over the malfunction, DeGette said lawmakers obtained documents showing how GM had actually looked at possible fixes for the defect in 2005, but determined it would be too expensive to address.
The “unacceptable cost increase,” she said, turned out to be 57 cents apiece.
The congresswoman held up an ignition switch for one of the cars and said a small spring inside of it failed to provide enough force, causing the car engines to turn off when they went over a bump. DeGette showed how easy it was for a light set of keys to move the ignition out of the “run” position. That can cause the engine to stall, and the driver loses power steering and power brakes.
Asked later in the hearing about the apparent decision not to address the problem, Barra said she found it “very disturbing.”
“If that was the reason the decision was made, that is unacceptable — that is not the way we do business at today’s GM,” she said.
Asked how the company balances cost and safety nowadays, she said: “We don’t.”