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Congressional Committee Chastises GM in Open Letter

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Jarod Cassidy3 years ago

In anticipation of today’s congressional hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has issued an open letter to General Motors CEO Mary T. Barra, addressing GM’s failure to acknowledge that they approved ignition switches which failed to meet company specifications on at least two separate occasions.

So far the defective switches have been linked to at least 13 deaths and 31 frontal collisions.

Delphi Automotive Briefs Congressional Committee

“If the torque performance is not to specification, and the key ring is carrying added weight or the vehicle goes off road or experience some other jarring event, the ignition switch may inadvertently be moved out of the “run” position.” – General Motors as published in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s open letter.

On March 27, key staff with Delphi Automotive, the manufacturer of the defective GM ignition switches, held a two-and-a-half hour briefing before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

During the briefing, Delphi informed the Committee of the production, approval and acceptance processes for the defective switches.

According to the Committee’s letter, General Motors specified that the torque necessary to turn the ignition switch from “run” to “accessory” should be 20±5 newton centimeters (N-cm). This means that the torque necessary to move the switch should be between 15 and 25 N-cm.

The importance of this specification is not lost on GM, who previously acknowledged that failure to meet this specification could result in the switch shifting in the event of bumpy terrain, jarring events or force exerted by a heavy key ring.

What GM has failed to acknowledge, according to the Committee, is that ignition switches that did not meet this standard were approved on multiple occasions and subsequently installed into 2.6 million recently recalled vehicles.

Multiple Ignition Switches Failed Performance Tests

In their briefing, Delphi officials claimed that it was “well documented” in 2002 that the ignition switch at the center of GM’s massive recall did not meet minimum torque requirements.

Delphi claims that they conducted 12 torque performance tests on the switch which suggested that the amount of torque needed to move the switch was as low as 4 N-cm – well below the 15 N-cm minimum laid out by General Motors.

Delphi notes that a similar situation happened again in 2006, when GM opted to redesign the faulty switches following numerous customer complaints.

According to Delphi, the newly designed switches had torque test results in the 10 to 15 N-cm range – higher than the previous switch model, but the results were still below GM specifications. Once again, however, the switch was approved by General Motors and installed into consumer vehicles.

Congress Criticizes GM’s Failure to Acknowledge Switch Approval

In its letter to Ms. Barra, the House Energy and Commerce Committee openly criticized GM’s failure to acknowledge that the switches failed to meet specifications, both in its recall for vehicles equipped with the faulty ignition switches as well as in its reports to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Committee points out the GM never publicly revealed that it had approved switches that did not meet company standards in 2002 and once again in 2006.

Further, the Committee alleges that the company is once again failing to acknowledge that inadequate switches were installed in some model year 2008-2011 vehicles, stating  “to the contrary, [GM] states that the cars were recalled because inadequate switches may have been used to repair these cars, not because inadequate switches were installed during production.”

GM Models currently included in the ignition switch recall are:


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