Rep. Murphy: GM knew ignition switches were ‘below specs’

The Republican chairman of a House panel that will question General Motors CEO Mary Barra about controversial recalls that have affected more than a million vehicles said Tuesday morning that the company knew its defective parts were “below specs.”

GM has come under fire for recalling 1.3 million of its mid-to-late 2000s model cars last month after revealing the vehicles had problems with their ignition switches that have already been blamed, in part, for 13 deaths.

Republicans have criticized the company for issuing the recall in many cases more than a decade after the vehicles were released.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV that he would press Barra about the delay in issuing the recall during the high-profile hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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“Right out of the blocks, what I want to hear them explain is why they accepted this starter switch that didn't meet their own specs,” Murphy said.  “It's supposed to require a certain amount of torque, a certain amount of strength to turn on and remain in that position. They knew it was below specs, they accepted it anyway.”

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recommended that drivers "use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring" to avoid problems like their cars shutting off or their airbags being disabled.

The agency, which is also under fire for its involvement in the delayed recall, has recommended that drivers of the GM models that have been identified take their automobiles in for repairs as soon as possible.

Murphy said Tuesday that GM made changes to its ignition mechanisms in its more recent models while it allowed drivers of older cars to continue being exposed to the potential problems.

“When it came time, when they realized the auto switch is put in cars, they put them in new vehicles and not the old ones,” the Pennsylvania lawmaker said during the interview.

“What was going on here?” Murphy continued. “Why were people not communicating with one another? Why were they not saying that this was a safety issue?”

Barra, who is in her first year at the helm of GM, is also scheduled to go before lawmakers in the Senate later this week.