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GM’s Barra to return to Capitol Hill

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(Crain News Service photo) GM said CEO Mary Barra "wants to return to Congress and update the House Energy & Commerce Committee Members on the actions GM is taking in response to the ignition switch recall."

By Mike Colias, Crain News Service

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2014) — General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra and outside attorney Anton Valukas will face more questioning on Capitol Hill next week, when a U.S. House subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on GM’s internal investigation of its ignition switch defect.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee said June 11 that it has set June 18 for Ms. Barra’s return appearance before its oversight panel.

Mr. Valukas, a former U.S. attorney who led the investigation that led to a 325-page report released last week, also is scheduled to testify.

Several lawmakers expressed frustration during Ms. Barra’s first appearance before the panel on April 1, during which she deflected dozens of questions about GM’s handling of the defective switch in deference to Mr. Valukas’ investigation.

In a statement, GM said: “Ms. Barra wants to return to Congress and update the House Energy & Commerce Committee Members on the actions GM is taking in response to the ignition switch recall.  As outlined by Ms. Barra last week, these efforts include fixing the failures identified in the Valukas report, building a culture centered on safety, quality and excellence, and doing what’s right for victims and their families.”

Mr. Valukas’ report blamed the deadly defect on incompetence and lack of accountability in GM’s organizational structure, but it found no evidence of a cover-up and cleared Barra and her top executives of wrongdoing.

GM has linked the defective ignition switch to 13 deaths and 54 crashes in Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars from the mid-2000s. GM has dismissed 15 employees, including at least five attorneys, following the investigation.

The hearing could set the stage for reforms of U.S. auto-safety laws.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., was a lead sponsor of Congress’ last major auto-safety overhaul, the TREAD Act. President Bill Clinton signed those reforms into law in 2000 in the wake of the Ford-Firestone light truck tire recall crisis.

Mr. Upton said in a statement June 11 that Mr. Valukas’ report “revealed disturbing truths about GM’s systemic and cultural failures that allowed this problem to go undiagnosed for over a decade, but many questions remain unanswered about the recalls and resulting changes within the company.”

The lawmaker vowed to figure out “what went wrong and what we can do to prevent future tragedies.”

Members of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee also are investigating the GM defect, but they have yet to announce a hearing on the Valukas report.

Reporter Gabe Nelson contributed to this report, which appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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