U.S. congressional probe heats up as GM expands recalls

Mon Mar 31, 2014 7:27pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman, Paul Lienert and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional probe is focusing on why General Motors Co employees repeatedly approved substandard ignition switches linked to at least 13 fatalities, as the automaker on Monday announced another major recall, this time related to power steering issues.

On the eve of a high-profile hearing before a House of Representatives panel, GM said it is recalling more than 1.5 million additional vehicles globally. That brings its total recalls so far this year to more than 6 million.

The Detroit-based automaker says it is taking an aggressive stance on safety issues, after coming under intense criticism for waiting more than a decade to recall millions of cars with potentially faulty ignition switches.

On Monday, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released details of some of the more than 200,000 pages of documents they have received from GM and a federal regulator.

The lawmakers said they want answers as to why GM employees approved for production ignition switches that failed to meet company standards. These faulty switches can cause engines to stall during operation, which also disables airbags, power steering and power brakes.

Lawmakers are also exploring whether another 14 fatalities could be connected to the faulty ignition switches, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding newer models of the recalled cars.

Those deaths occurred in accidents with vehicles displaying some of the same problems as those in the earlier fatalities.

The additional 14 deaths occurred after the 13 fatalities that GM has connected to defective ignition switches.   Continued...

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files