Federal officials say the agency charged with ensuring the safety of cars in America was missing key information when it decided against a deeper investigation of General Motors in 2007.

David Friedman (pictured), the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday that the agency didn't have knowledge of a link between airbag non-deployments and faulty ignition switches. He said GM could have helped make the connection.

"GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect," Friedman said in remarks released ahead of his scheduled testimony before a Congressional subcommittee Tuesday. Both Friedman and General Motors CEO Mary Barra are scheduled to appear and answer questions before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.

"GM had critical information that would have helped identify this defect." – David Friedman, NHTSA Administrator

His comments came one day after a memo released by the committee indicated that a senior NHTSA investigator wanted to probe a rash of fatalities, complaints and field reports related to the problems in November 2007. NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation opted not to open an investigation.

Problems with the faulty ignition switches remained largely unknown until February of this year, when General Motors announced a recall, which so far has affected 2.5 million vehicles. Documents have shown General Motors was aware of the ignition-switch defect as early as 2001 – four years before the affected cars were even sold.

At least 13 people have died as a result of crashes caused by the defect. Two Congressional committees, the Department of Justice and NHTSA are all investigating the delay in General Motors response to the problem.

"I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out," GM CEO Mary Barra said, in an advance copy of her prepared remarks. "When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers."

At the request of the Department of Transportation Secretary, an inspector general is also investigating NHTSA's own effectiveness at spotting the deadly trend and bringing enforcement.

On Monday, former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook criticized the agency for failing to act.

"NHTSA has fallen into a bureaucratic quagmire that it uses to avoid opening investigations and determining safety defects while people are dying unnecessarily on the highway," she said. "...It is past time for NHTSA to put the public first in its safety defect decisions."

Friedman, who took over as NHTSA's chief administrator in January, said there was not sufficient evidence at the time. He said the 51 employees of the agency's Office of Defects Investigation have made significant efforts that result in the annual recall of roughly nine million defective vehicles.

"We believe our defects investigation program and recalls process has functioned extremely well over the years in identifying defects that create unreasonable risks and ensuring that recalls occur whenever appropriate," he said. "Even so, we continually seek ways to improve."


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  • 30 Comments
      Kit
      • 8 Months Ago
      I watched some of the testimony. Most of her answers were pure BS and deflections. She's been with the company for 34 years, had been head of quality for 3 years before taking over as CEO and claims to have known about the ignition problem since December. While I don't think she's responsible for most of this, she's definitely doing herself and GM no favors. PS, just WHERE is Bob Lutz, Rick Wagoner, Dan Akerson, the Cobalt Chief Engineer, and the guy who signed off on the ignition switch design? Why aren't any of these clowns up there getting chewed out by Congress???
      wrestleprocbt
      • 8 Months Ago
      Mary Barra " We will be transparent". Really? You are Gov't Motors. Nothing with our gov't is transparent anymore so why would we expect any honesty from you? You belong in the groups of five! Lois Lerner, Susan Rice, Kathleen Sibilious, Nancy Pelosi and now you Mary Barra. What a group to be proud to belong to. The group of disgusting woman in America.
      zoom_zoom_zoom
      • 8 Months Ago
      Bankrupt before end of year?
      m_2012
      • 8 Months Ago
      See ya GM. You had a good run.
      Basil Exposition
      • 8 Months Ago
      This is sounding more and more like the Toyota debacle every day.
      LMI500
      • 8 Months Ago
      People lied. People died. Now it's a blame game and a pointing the finger match. Not to mention it will probably escalate into a witch hunt since GM used taxpayer dollars. Toyota has seemed to bow out of the spotlight very very quickly with their recall and $1.2B payout.
      whataricky
      • 8 Months Ago
      Imagine if GM were bankrupt and gone. There would be no recourse, no recalls. Just dangerous vehicles and no one to answer for it.
      csrecord
      • 8 Months Ago
      "I cannot tell you why it took years for a safety defect to be announced in that program, but I can tell you that we will find out," GM CEO Mary Barra said. She sounds like another corporate BSer. They covered up so suck it up and take the blame. You should know after all this time who is to blame. God, more cover up to drag this out and hope people forget about it. Prison is too good for them.
      RexSeven
      • 8 Months Ago
      Federal Official says, "when we can't use a corporation for political gain, or blackmail them in to giving us money, we blame them for things."
      ngiotta
      • 8 Months Ago
      Phew! Looks like the government sold the last of their shares just in time.
        brandon
        • 8 Months Ago
        @ngiotta
        This just proves that they should have never been given the money to begin with. Queue the idiots....."Oh, but, but, but we would have lost jobs"........... Only we already have....... http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000
      Avinash Machado
      • 8 Months Ago
      Why is Rick Wagoner not in jail yet?
      RexSeven
      • 8 Months Ago
      Federal Official says, "when we can't use a corporation for political gain, or blackmail them in to giving us money, we blame them for things."
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