The hearing's announcement states: "Their testimony is critical to understanding what the company and NHTSA knew about the safety problems, when they knew it, and what was done about it." It admits that the problems leading to the recall predate both Barra and Friedman taking their leadership positions, but it claims they are the best people to explain what went wrong. The committee is chaired by US Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) who was also part of the federal investigation of the Ford-Firestone rollovers in 2000.
GM has been fighting poor public perception after it came out that it allegedly knew about the flaw for years prior to the recall. In a press conference earlier this week, Barra said that she learned about the investigation into the switches in late December of 2013, and found out a repair would be necessary on January 31. The faulty part has been linked to 31 crashes and 12 deaths. NHTSA has also been criticized for not forcing action sooner.
A GM spokesperson told Automotive News that Barra "welcomes the opportunity to participate in the hearing as part of GM's effort to cooperate with Congress and other authorities." She also said during the press conference that she would be willing to testify. Scroll down to read the US House Energy and Commerce Committee entire announcement.
March 20, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today announced that General Motors Company CEO Mary Barra will testify at an Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. The committee has also invited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator David Friedman to testify on the same day.
"We look forward to hearing from both Mary Barra and Administrator Friedman. Their testimony is critical to understanding what the company and NHTSA knew about the safety problems, when they knew it, and what was done about it," said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA). "The problems originated long before Barra and Friedman took the helms of their respective organizations, but their actions and input now, as our investigation proceeds, will be essential to getting answers about what went wrong. We want to know if this tragedy could have been prevented and what can be done to ensure the loss of life due to safety failures like this don't happen again."
"I look forward to this hearing so we can find out from GM and NHTSA how this happened and why these dangerous vehicles were not fixed in a timely fashion," said full committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO).
Additional hearing details, the Majority Memorandum, a witness list, and witness testimony will be available here as they are posted.
BACKGROUND: The committee has opened a bipartisan investigation into the General Motors Company's (GM) and NHTSA's response to consumer complaints related to stalling, airbag non-deployment, and ignition switch problems. GM announced a recall in February covering over 1.6 million vehicles worldwide to correct the problems, but reports indicate drivers first complained of the safety defects over 10 years ago. The company has stated that the defects may have been linked to 31 frontal crashes and a dozen fatalities. Committee staff has now been briefed by both NHTSA and GM on the recalls, and currently awaits production of the documents and information requested last week.