House to investigate slow response to GM ignition flaw

By Matthew L. Wald and Bill Vlasic / New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON — A House committee has started an investigation into the response by General Motors and federal safety regulators to complaints about faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths, officials said Monday.

An Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee will hold hearings that will include the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although the date has not been set, said Charlotte Baker, a committee spokeswoman.

Last month, General Motors said it would recall more than 1.6 million cars because of a defective ignition switch that, if jostled or weighed down by a heavy key ring, could turn off the car’s engine and electrical system, disabling the air bags.

Also Monday, General Motors said its internal investigation would be led by a former federal prosecutor, Anton Valukas, who was the court-appointed examiner of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

The congressional investigation is not the first time the committee’s chairman, Fred Upton, has looked into the issue of consumer complaints going unheeded over defective cars.