• Mar 12th 2014 at 6:00AM
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General Motors CEO Mary Barra says the car company will... General Motors CEO Mary Barra says the car company will seek an "unvarnished" report on its role in a deepening crisis over faulty ignition switches (GM).
The Department of Justice will investigate General Motors to see whether it failed to recall more than 1.37 million defective cars in timely fashion, according to a report published by Reuters on Tuesday afternoon.

A preliminary investigation will be conducted by the department's office in Southern New York, and prosecutors will examine whether GM was criminally negligent in delaying its recall of the faulty cars for as long as ten years, according to the report.

A spokesperson with the DOJ's Southern New York office declined to confirm the investigation late Tuesday afternoon, and GM said it would not comment on the Reuters report.

Should the DOJ launch an investigation, it would be the latest one of many into the actions of the beleaguered Detroit automaker. On Monday, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee said it would launch an investigation within the next week into why it took the automaker so long to issue a recall over a defect that has caused at least 13 deaths and 31 crashes.

"Did the company or regulators miss something that could have flagged these problems sooner?" asked Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan), the chairman of the committee. "If the answer is yes, we must learn how and why this happened, and then determine whether this system of reporting and analyzing complaints that Congress created to save lives is being implemented and working as the law intended."

Following a defect with Firestone Tires that contributed to the deaths of more than 200 motorists, Upton helped author the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act that was enacted on Nov. 1, 2000.

Among other things, that legislation created the Early Warning Reporting system within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a system that safety advocates say should have alerted authorities to deadly problems far earlier. GM filed at least 51 death reports via the Early Warning Report system between 2004 and 2012, according to The Center for Auto Safety, yet no recall came.

Documents show that General Motors was aware of problems with the ignition switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion and several other models as early as 2004 – before the cars were even sold to the public. NHTSA was aware of the problem as early as 2007, according to records. But no cars were recalled until last month.

Another investigation into GM could take place in the Senate. Also Tuesday, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) asked Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to hold hearings on GM's failure to recall affected cars in a timely fashion. McCaskill chairs the Senate's Consumer Protection Subcommittee. An aide to McCaskill told The Wall Street Journal she intends to do so.

The three potential investigations would all come on top of an investigation by NHTSA officials, who sent notice of a preliminary investigation to GM last week, in which they asked the automaker to respond to 107 detailed questions regarding the defect and its delays in recalling vehicles. Responses are due April 3.

NHTSA itself has been the subject of much scrutiny from safety advocates, who say the watchdog agency failed in its duty to notify the public of a dangerous problem in a timely fashion. And GM said Monday that it would hire outside counsel to conduct its own internal investigation.

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at peter.bigelow@teamaol.com and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.

Times Minute: G.M.'s Legal Woes

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
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      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow. I thought the time from KNOWING about the problem and recalling the cars was 1 year. 10 years? Wow. You could raise a child to 9 and then have them die in the car she was brought home in as a baby. It's like selling a time bomb. :( Probably the issue for GM was money. Money seems to make people loopy. :( But THESE days . . . so many better car companies to choose from. Northeasterners know about Subarus for the snowy winters. Maybe it's the rest of the country that buys GM cars. :(
      • 1 Year Ago
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      • 1 Year Ago
      I had a Oldsmobile ..top of the line.. die on me while driving on the highway.. damn scary..lucky to get off to the shoulder and not kill anyone.. the steering wheel locks..its a horror.. what did GM do.. a big nothing but tell me it was a sensor issue..funny thing the sensor light never lit up.. that was 20 years ago.. Never bought an American made car since.. and will never again..
      • 1 Year Ago
      Remember how the plastic gas container spouts went from simple to impossibly complicated because of law suits. Blitz USA, the largest maker of gas contrainers in the US, went out of business defending its product. That's the future design of your ignition switch, simple going complicated.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've seen some of the key "CHAINS" some women have when they swipe their discount cards across scanners. Between the 20 keys, Explorer key fob, fifteen discount cars,d mini frame of the 3 kids along with whatever else they can squeeze on the "CHAIN" its no wonder the steering coloumn don't sag.....let alone the ignition switch trying to hang on under the weight of the ""CHAIN""""
        • 1 Year Ago
        You can't make anything idiot proof (look at the warning signs on a new ladder) but you have to try. Not notifying the public that some people are being killed or having accidents because of a car defect for years is criminal.
      Gary Astorino
      • 1 Year Ago
      How can the government investigate itself. Its Government motors after all. Probably had to be held up till after the election like health care, IRS and Bengazi.
      Darryl Crawford
      • 1 Year Ago
      Burn them at the stake!! Just goes to show you what a Presidental Bailout is all about.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Glad we bought a Ford after having so many GM cars and trucks over the years. If you buy from Government Motors Corp., then you get what you pay for. If your GM vehicle works as well as Obama's health care, then you'll pretty much be staying at home.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Surprise surprise... GM cars have problems with their key/ignition switch. This has been going on for 50 years or more.. Every few years there would be articles about not keeping any other keys on your key-chain to reduce the wear on the switch..My mom (like most people) had a 5lb key-chain and was forever having to go get the switch serviced.. Boy do I love my pushbutton start on my Nissan..
        • 1 Year Ago
        My Nissan has a Keyed start. (a 2011 model)
      • 1 Year Ago
      I found out that I had too many keys on my key chain and hitting a bump would turn the car off! Didn't cause an accident and for awhile thought it was my imagination. My son in law told me about it when it happened to him while driving my truck. Be aware that you should keep minimum amt of keys on your key ring!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Obama has requested that all of these car be fixed with one gear in the transmission.. Reverse. Then everyone will be on the same path and will arrive at the same time.
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