GM CEO: 'We acted without hesitation'

General Motors CEO Mary Barra is expected to tell Congress on Tuesday that she "acted without hesitation" this year to recall cars with an ignition switch problem.

Barra is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations subcommittee about her company's handling of a recall this year that involved the ignition switch of several mid-2000s GM models.

"As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation. We told the world we had a problem that needed to be fixed," Barra said in written testimony that was submitted to the panel.

"We did so because whatever mistakes were made in the past, we will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future," Barra is expected to say. "Today’s GM will do the right thing."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recalled the GM vehicles after finding that the switches have problems like turning off motors and disabling airbags when they are used on heavier key rings.

The NHTSA, which is also facing criticism from lawmakers about its involvement in the alleged delays in notifying passengers, has told drivers to "use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring" and take their automobiles in for repairs as soon as possible.

The recalls covers 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, the 2007 Pontiac G5, 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2006-2007 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2007 Pontiac Solstices and 2007 Saturn Skies.

Barra, who is making her first appearance before lawmakers this week as GM CEO, is expected to tell the panel that she pushed to get the word out to drivers as soon as she took control of GM at the beginning of this year.

Republicans have criticized GM and the NHTSA for allegedly taking too long to issue the recalls on the vehicles.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said the agency and the car company could have been in violation of the 2000 Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act, which requires recalls to be issued promptly after recurring mechanical issues are discovered.
Lawmakers have said the problems with the ignition switches in GM cars resulted in 12 deaths before the warning was issued. The recall has affected 1.6 million cars.

"Did the company or regulators miss something that could have flagged these problems sooner," Upton said in a statement earlier this month announcing the Tuesday hearing.

"If the answer is yes, we must learn how and why this happened, and then determine whether this system of reporting and analyzing complaints that Congress created to save lives is being implemented and working as the law intended," Upton continued. "Americans deserve to have the peace of mind that they are safe behind the wheel. We plan to seek detailed information from both NHTSA and GM."

Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman is expected to place blame for the delays in recalling the vehicles on GM.

"GM first provided NHTSA a chronology of events on February 24, 2014. The information in GM’s chronology raises serious questions as to the timeliness of GM’s recall," Friedman said in written testimony that was submitted to the panel. "As a result, on February 26, NHTSA opened its present investigation, a timeliness query."

Barra and the NHTSA officials are also expected to testify Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.