Delphi told panel GM approved ignition switches below specifications

Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:11pm EDT
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By Richard Cowan, Eric Beech and Paul Lienert

WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co approved ignition switches for cars that have been linked to 13 deaths, even though the parts did not appear to meet the company's specifications, officials of Delphi Automotive told U.S. congressional investigators.

In a memo released on Sunday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, documents provided by GM and a federal regulator provided "unsettling" information, according to Republican Representative Tim Murphy, who leads a subcommittee of the panel.

The memo was released ahead of Tuesday's testimony from GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, who will appear at the committee's first public hearing on the recalls. She is likely to be asked why it took GM so long to identify and address the ignition switch problem.

The information from Delphi officials was detailed in the memo, which is mainly a chronology of actions taken by GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since the late 1990s and through Friday, when GM expanded its global recall of cars with defective ignition switches to 2.6 million.

GM switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other models were prone to being bumped or jostled into accessory mode while cars were moving, which would shut off engines and disable power steering, power brakes and airbags, leading to dozens of crashes.

Delphi told U.S. congressional investigators last week that GM approved the original part in 2002, despite the fact it did not meet GM specifications

Congressional investigators also want to know what led NHTSA, as long ago as 2007 and 2010, to determine that there was not a safety defect trend with airbags that were failing to deploy in Chevrolet Cobalts.

"What did NHTSA do to investigate whether a trend existed? What data did it consider," the committee asked.   Continued...

A General Motors logo is seen on a vehicle for sale at the GM dealership in Carlsbad, California January 4, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake