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GM CEO claims company still doesn't know why recall took so long

by Justin King

Barra issues prepared remarks ahead of Congress grilling.

General Motors has issued written testimony from CEO Mary Barra ahead of a formal hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Legislators want to know why the ignition-switch recall took so long, however the executive suggests the company still does not have an answer.

"Sitting here today, 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," she wrote. "When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers."

The executive reiterated an apology to everyone who has been affected by the recall, "especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured."

The company has yet to name victims of accidents that have been officially blamed on faulty ignition switches, though it brought its fatality count up to 13 due to an accident in Quebec.

More documents are required to be submitted to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by April 3, including details of fatal accidents. It is unclear if the company has notified families, however personal information about the victims is expected to be redacted from the public documents that will be published by the agency.

The company faces several lawsuits filed by the estates of drivers who were killed in accidents that were allegedly caused by the switch defect. The documents may reveal if GM has counted these cases or previously-settled lawsuits among its official list. Some safety advocates point to hundreds of fatalities from accidents in which the airbags did not deploy, suggesting the actual victim count may be higher.

The company recently expanded the ignition-switch recall to include newer models that may have been repaired with older ignition switches. It has also issued several for other vehicles, including more than a half million new Chevrolet Cruze sedans and various Chevrolet and GMC pickups and SUVs.

"This latest round of recalls demonstrates just how serious we are about the way we will do things at the new GM," Barra added. "We identified these issues. We brought them forward and we are fixing them. I have asked our team to keep stressing the system at GM and work with one thing in mind — our customers and their safety are at the center of everything we do."

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