Financial News

  • 3 April 2014, 5:41

GM Senate Hearing: Recalled Cars 'Safe To Drive'

General Motors boss Mary Barra has given Congress assurances that recalled GM cars are safe to drive while owners wait for a replacement part that is linked to 13 deaths.

Ms Barra, appearing before a Senate subcommittee in a second day of testimony on Capitol Hill, told senators she would let her own son drive the Chevrolet Cobaltsand Saturn Ions.

Her comments came as lawmakers accused GM of a potential criminal cover-up of its defective ignition switches, andsaid the carmaker should tell owners to stop driving them until they are repaired.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars since February due to faulty ignition switches.

The automakersays the switch can easily turn from the "run" position to the "accessory" position while the car is in motion.

Evidence submitted to Congress by GM suggests the company was aware of a problem as far back as 2003, and lawmakers are trying to determine why recalls were not issued sooner.

Ms Barra, who took over GM in January, has endured two days of questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they look to answer the question.

SenKelly Ayotte said: "I don't see this as anything but criminal."

Sen Richard Blumenthal told MsBarra that the more he learns about GM, "the more convinced I am that GM has a real exposure to criminal liability".

The senators hammered Ms Barrawith questions while family members of crash victims sat behind the GM chief, holding signs of lost loved ones, many of whom were teens.

Ms Barra echoed her testimony given before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, sayingmany of the answers Congress is seeking will come out in an internal GM investigation.

She said the probe should be completed in 45 to 60 days.

The Justice Department also is conducting a criminal investigation of GM's handling of the recall.

GM has said that in 2005 company engineers proposed solutions to the switch problem, but the carmaker concluded that none represented "an acceptable business case".

Ms Barra testified that the fix to the switch, if undertaken in 2007, would have cost GM about $100m, compared with "substantially" more now.