June 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

GM, NHTSA turn over more documents to House committee

GM repeatedly has said it is cooperating with Congress. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)

General Motors Co. has now turned over 1 million pages of records to a U.S. House committee investigating the automaker’s handling of a recall of 2.6 million vehicles linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes, The Detroit News has learned.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee — which reported in early April it had received about 200,000 pages of documents from GM — has received another 800,000 pages over the last two months as investigators continue their investigation, which is expected to last through the end of summer. That includes a large batch of documents turned over last week, a committee spokeswoman confirmed.

Separately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration turned over another 10,000 pages of records late last week to committee investigators, bringing the total to more than 15,000 pages.

The committee is investigating why NHTSA rejected a call from a senior investigator in 2007 to open a formal investigation into reports of ignition switch problems in older GM cars linked to air bags that failed to deploy in frontal crashes.

Committee investigators last month interviewed a suspended engineer at the center of the crisis. Staff met at length with GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio and other current and former company officials, and are continuing to conduct interviews. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, the chair of the committee, has said he plans to hold another hearing as does the Senate Commerce Committee.

But those hearings might not take place until July. Barra has pledged to return once the company releases its internal report on its handling of the ignition switch problems over more than a decade.

“Our investigation into how the system failed is far from over. We continue to gather documents and interview key players involved in the ignition recall to determine why it took so long to connect the dots and take action. What should have been a maximum of five days to report took years, and people died as a result,” Upton said last month.

Members of Congress who questioned Barra in April were incredulous that nobody had been fired for delays in issuing recalls. The committee also interviewed suspended engineer Gary Altman, who last year was chief engineer on the Chevrolet Cruze diesel and was program engineering manager on the Chevrolet Cobalt through May 2005. DeGiorgio was GM’s project engineer responsible for the ignition switch on the Saturn Ion and Cobalt.

Documents provided to the House Energy and Commerce committee by GM indicate that DeGiorgio, a GM employee since 1991, “signed off on a Delphi ignition switch change on April 26, 2006.” In an April 2013 deposition, however, DeGiorgio said GM “certainly did not approve a ... design change” in 2006.

Several GM safety officials have retired, left the company or moved to other positions as the recall crisis has unfolded. GM has named a new vice president overseeing safety issues and more than doubled the number of engineers looking at safety issues. GM has recalled a record 15.8 million vehicles worldwide in about 30 campaigns this year — about 20 times as many vehicles as it recalled last year.

GM repeatedly has said it is cooperating with Congress.

Last month, Barra was on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers twice.

Her meetings included sessions with Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chaired one of the panels that questioned her in April; Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.; and Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn. She met earlier in May in a visit to Capitol Hill with Upton.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com