General Motors is not fully cooperating with a federal probe of its defective ignition switches, investigators charged Tuesday.

In a letter to the beleaguered automaker, the lead attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said GM was either "unwilling or unable" to answer more than a third of questions posed by regulators. Answers were due by April 3.

In response, NHTSA has levied a $7,000 per day penalty against the company. So far, the company has amassed a $28,000 fine. Perhaps more concerning for a company that posted a $3.2 billion profit in 2013 is that regulators say they'll ask the Department of Justice to compel responses for the missing information.

"To be clear, a complete response by GM means GM fully and substantively answers all questions and produces all responsive documents," O. Kevin Vincent, NHTSA's general counsel, wrote. General Motors disputes NHTSA's finding. A company spokesperson says GM has "fully cooperated" with the special order.

Intervention from the Justice Department would be a separate matter from the DOJ's own investigation into whether General Motors is criminally liable for its failure to recall more than 2.5 million affected cars in a timely manner. Documents have shown that GM knew about the problem as early as 2001 – four years before the cars even went into production. Yet the company didn't start to recall the cars until February. In the interim, GM acknowledges at least 13 people were killed in accidents related to the defect.
Two Congressional inquiries into the delay are underway, in addition to the pending DOJ and NHTSA investigations. In addition, an investigator general is conducting an audit of NHTSA's own inaction regarding the defect.

Testifying before the two Congressional subcommittees last week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra deflected many questions by saying she wanted to wait for the results of an internal GM investigation being conducted by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas before providing answers. Vincent's letter alleges GM attempted to answer many of the 107 questions in NHTSA's special order in the same manner: when investigators asked about the missing responses on April 4, GM cited the ongoing internal investigation as a reason for not fully responding, according to NHTSA.

"This was the first time GM had ever raised Mr. Valukas' work as a reason GM could not fully provide information to NHTSA in this timeliness investigation," Vincent wrote. "... Mr. Valukas' investigation is irrelevant to GM's legal obligation to timely respond to the Special Order and fully cooperate with NHTSA."

In month-long discussions with regulators, GM said it may not be able to fully provide answers to "technical engineering questions" by the deadline, and NHTSA stipulated it had no objection to the company taking extra time to ensure comprehensive responses to those particular questions. Yet when the responses arrived, they lacked information for not only technical engineering questions, but responses for "numerous" queries that were far more basic, Vincent said.

"These are basic questions concerning information that is surely readily available to GM at this time," he wrote. "Moreover, it is deeply troubling that two months after recalling the vehicles, GM is unwilling or unable to tell NHTSA whether the design of the switch changed at any other time."

General Motors said it has submitted 21,000 documents that total more than 270,000 pages in response to the NHTSA special order, and disputes Vincent's allegation that the company has not fully cooperated.

"GM has worked tirelessly from the start to be responsive to NHTSA's special order and has fully cooperated with the agency to help it have a full understanding of the facts," said Greg A. Martin, a company spokesperson. "We believe that NHTSA shares our desire to provide accurate and substantive responses. We will continue to provide responses and facts as soon as they become available and hope to go about this in a constructive manner. We will do so with a goal of being accurate as well as timely."

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.


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      Cruising
      • 8 Months Ago
      Many people are to blame for GM's problems but focusing on Dan Akerson the man said he wanted to retire to be with his family and his sick wife then he goes and joins Carlyle Group in a blink of a eye after he retires. He doesn't care about anything, these people ruined GM just collecting a paycheck but have no passion for the business while the true believers where held back so they can pinch pennies at the top
        Jerry
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Cruising
        Dan Akerson is a piece of crap. He expected GM to be his big "pay out". He whined the whole time he was in the job about how little his $9 million a year salary was for someone of his "talents". He never had GM's best interests in mind and never planned to stick around long.
      BipDBo
      • 8 Months Ago
      Why is Mary Barra the only CEO being grilled? It's obvious that she was hired in to be the fall guy, essentially a well paid defense lawyer. Congress and the NHTSA should subpoena whatever CEOs and upper management that was in charge of making these bad decisions, when they were made. I'm a conservative and a big fan of free market capitalism, but I see a huge flaw in it. Modern capitalism has enabled unbridled success and free profit as a reward for hard work, innovation, investment, and most importantly taking risks. This is very good. The problem occurs when a large, established company outlives it's founders, the people who toiled and took risks to build it from the ground and pass it on to high paid management. This management has written the rules so that they can travel from established company to established company, and there be rewarded for the company's success while there without having ever taken any real personal risk. Worse, the rules have been written to remove any real personal liability for poor decisions like this that can put consumers in danger or drive a company into the ground. Often when a business is passed on when it outlives its founders, the business turns into a heartless machine, with little purpose than feeding the parasites at the top who have no real personal motivation for the company's success. Pre-bankruptcy GM was a slowly sinking ship. The captain and a few people who knew it was sinking. Rather than to try to plug the hole or alerting other passengers, they shoved all the ship treasures into the life raft, jumped in, and quietly said, "so long suckers!" The management of our banks did the same thing, ******* every bit out for themselves while the banks went broke, even collecting huge bonuses while the fed re-capitalized the private system. I relate a lot to the Tea party ideals, but I also agree a lot with that the Occupy movement. The world needs capitalism, but it also needs to find a way to rewrite it rules.
        creamwobbly
        • 8 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        I agree with you and you'd probably label me a socialist.
          BipDBo
          • 8 Months Ago
          @creamwobbly
          You may very well be a socialist but that doesn't mean that a conservative like me can't find ground with you on at least a couple of items. It's too bad our partisan government doesn't seem to understand that.
        kmac1036
        • 8 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        I not only vote in elections, I also vote with my dollars. I voted to buy a truck from a company that didn't take TARP handouts & is still owned by the family of it's founder, with members still working within the company that still seem to care. The Ford family risked their whole fortune to save the company & they did it. Not just their own efforts but having the realization they couldn't do it alone. They literally bet the whole farm & it paid off. GM didn't do that. The management ran it into the ground then were pretty much able to walk away, going to their next gig. They did try to merge with Ford not too long before the bankruptcy, Chrysler too, but it was too little, too late. A big part of the reason SAAB & Saturn/Pontiac died too. The shuffled the debt around with no one being held accountable.
          BipDBo
          • 8 Months Ago
          @kmac1036
          Good for you. The "vote with your dollars" was the reason conservatives railed against GM or "government motors" as they called it, after the bailout. Even after poor reedy management and building crap for many decades I'd be willing to give them a second chance if it looks like they've turned a corner. Time will tell, but stories like this make it seem like the new GM is just the same old GM. After the bank bailout, I found out that there was one bank that served my area that had refused to get involved with chasing high risk mortgages. Even though these mortgages were "profit without risk" backed by the fed through a big Mannie Mae & Freddie Mac safety net, BB&T saw it as bad business & wrong. So they did real well when the banking industry collapsed, and absorbed the bigger bank, Colonial for pennies on the dollar. So BB&T has been my bank since and I've been happy with them.
      funguy6713
      • 8 Months Ago
      If Barra doesn't do the right thing and resorts to old GM ways, she out...GM will have serious credibility issues, lawsuits up the wazoo and public scorn...and GM will do to itself what the Great Recession couldn't...
      Arizonarelax
      • 8 Months Ago
      Yea, just great. Continue to tell false-truths. When are the American people going to start just simply laughing at all the deceitful people - laughter will take away their perception of power? Equal pay for women - I approve - but as Jay Carney said, "Yes, the White House pay is not equal, but it is less equal elsewhere." - OMG! "What does it matter?" Mary, here is your chance to do better than the national average, not just in pay but for America. Tell the truth, step-up and lead - stop the spin BS. We need leaders of all races, male and female. Bring GM back! Set the bar to achieve not to deceive!
      Firefly
      • 8 Months Ago
      GM may be covering things up, but they've been covering up their bulls**t sicne WAY before Mary Barra took the reigns. I agree that GM should be grilled and held responsible, but burning her at the stake when all the executives before her covered up the mess makes this a witch hunt...
      RetrogradE
      • 8 Months Ago
      Shocker.
      Ross
      • 8 Months Ago
      Hype aside...the reality indicates that the new boss is no different than the old boss...gender difference aside, mentality remains consistent...folks, its a home-grown problem. Barra has been part of that culture for far to long to think or behave any differently.
      Israel Isassi
      • 8 Months Ago
      I find it interesting that all this surfaced after Mary Barra took over.
        bubba_roe
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Israel Isassi
        Theyll probably can her as soon as all this is over.
      Bubba Jones
      • 8 Months Ago
      Every time a Boing jet liner crashes, 100 to 300 people DIE. NOT ONCE has the CEO of Boing been hauled in to testify before congress. Not even after flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic because of "faulty wiring" in the gas tank. Most crashes are due to either pilot error or lack of maintenance. When was the last time the CEO of any airline was called on to defend his company's training and maintenance programs ?? Firestone killed more than 250 people and injured more than 3,000 with their defective tires. I don't remember them being hauled before congress. More than 400,000 people have died in car wrecks the time frame covered by the allegedly defective switch. But we're going to crucify GM for 13 deaths ?? Especially when it's been proven that each and every one of those drivers contributed to their own demise by having massive amounts of crap hanging off their key rings. The CDC says doctors, hospitals and drug makers KILL more than 200,000 Americans every year !! When was the last time ANYONE in the medical field was called to answer for the death toll ??? This is nothing more than an election year witch hunt. This has been the single most do nothing congress since WW2. NOW they want us to think they're actually doing something and GM is a good target. There is a certain percentage of people out there that have always hated GM including most of the media. They didn't want them to get the bail out, and now congress is pandering to them. It's all smoke and mirrors, propaganda and misdirection and GM is a convenient target.
        macutty
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Bubba Jones
        You must have a bad memory: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=95685 "abc News - Congress Grills Ford, Firestone Over Tire Tests" GM is being crucified because they realized the issue many years ago and then tried to hide it to avoid liability while knowingly letting millions drive in unsafe cars. The "big deal" here is the cover up, which is very obvious to anyone following this story.
        Quest
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Bubba Jones
        Well put it this way Bubba, more died with GM than Toyota and the toll will most definitely climb, were you just a concerned with Toyota's treatment? Comparing Boeings with GM cars is a stretch, congrats that's a new one. For a start consumers do not buy, operate or maintain Boeings. Furthermore, the issue with GM is a know product defect was identified in the design phase (~2001); made it into production; flagged internally again but failed internal cost benefit analysis (59 cent part); part was quietly changed (without corresponding part number change) as accidents and deaths became apparent (GM was settling out of court with families) and this all didn't finally get recalled till 2013-14. For a Boeing to have a like fault the plane would lose all power while in operation... ponder that for awhile?!
      Jmaister
      • 8 Months Ago
      oooo, 28,000. you think gm cares about your petty penalty.
      SloopJohnB
      • 8 Months Ago
      Pricks at NHTSA 'unwilling or unable' is a pretty wide knock….if the company is unable to answer that can be a time issue or simply there is no answer…NHTSA should have to prove the company is unwilling to answer before the fine can be assessed/collected. Government lawyers can be obtuse and often engage in fishing expeditions that go way beyond the scope of the investigation hoping to uncover information…there's more to this than GM being obtuse.
        Basil Exposition
        • 8 Months Ago
        @SloopJohnB
        Yea, saying they are "unwilling or unable" to answer the questions is like saying someone who slapped a couple guys "murdered or slapped" a couple guys. While technically true, it sends a misleading message.
          Termin8
          • 8 Months Ago
          @Basil Exposition
          I agree in theory, but this statement was cherry-picked for the article and my guess is it's use was more for effect than information value. As usual, you have to be very careful about judging a situation unless you know you have ALL the facts.
      Basil Exposition
      • 8 Months Ago
      This is sounding more and more like Unintended Acceleration all over again. You would think GM would have paid attention and learned from Toyota's mistakes.
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