By Keith Laing - 04/03/14 09:47 AM EDT
The ranking Republican on the Senate committee that grilled General Motors CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday about the company’s handling of widespread auto recalls said it “wasn’t a good day for GM.”
Appearing on the Fox Business's “Cavuto” show after the hearing, Heller said he had just as many questions about GM’s recall of 1.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches as he did before Barra’s testimony began.
“It wasn't a good day, not for the new CEO, Mary Barra, nor was it a good day for GM,” Heller said. “But we had NHTSA come up afterwards, and we're just as frustrated with NHTSA and their oversight as we are with GM. And frankly, there's another leg to this stool and that's Delphi. What did Delphi know? They were the — they were the actual producer of the product itself. They were the ones that made the change. What did they know and what was their contact with GM and how did they decide not to change the part numbers?”
The recalled cars have been linked to 13 deaths going back to 2005. The recall was not issued by GM and the highway safety agency until February of this year.
Heller said he questioned if GM’s decision to delay issuing the recall was related to its pursuit of a federal bailout in 2008 and 2009. GM received more than $50 billion from the federal government during the tail end of the Bush administration and the beginning of President Obama’s tenure.
The bailouts made GM a frequent target of political attacks from conservatives, who dubbed the company “Government Motors” during the time when the federal government owned a majority of its shares.
GM announced it paid back most of the money it received during the bailout shortly before it tapped Barra to become its first female CEO in December of last year.
Heller said he still questioned whether the bailout caused GM to hesitate on the recall.
“I talked to them specifically about 2006, 2007, 2008,” he said. “What was the financial health of GM at the time, and were they so unhealthy as you know, they were bailed out by the taxpayers; taxpayers did end up owing 60 percent of them, but was that the reason why they did not do the recall, because they could not live through one at that point?”
Heller said he thought lawmakers needed to continue investigating GM’s handling of the recall in the coming months.
“I think that is how much further this conversations need to go,” he said. “It may not have just been government funds, but it could have been private funds also, as they were trying to restructure and get through bankruptcy. So, there were a lot of problems and a lot of issues going into this, and I think there is a cover-up going on here, and I want to find, and everybody on that committee wants to get to the bottom of this.”