July 7, 2014 at 6:17 pm

GM turns over 2 million pages in House probe

Washington —General Motors Co. has now turned over 2 million pages of records to a House committee, almost twice the number it had turned over by last month as Congress continues investigating.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he was still considering what to include in an auto safety overhaul bill. He suggested in a WJR radio interview that a bill could create a new “national registry” to track vehicles to ensure that recall repairs are completed and to ensure it is easy to track down new owners after the first owner sells a car.

Upton said June 18 that GM had turned over more than 1 million pages. A committee spokeswoman confirmed the new tally of documents turned over since then.

But he said he hasn’t written any auto safety legislation. He said last week in a TV interview he was likely to introduce legislation by early next year. He said he wasn’t sold on whether the government should hike maximum auto safety fines from the current $35 million. Democrats in the House and Senate want to hike the maximum fines to $200 million per delayed recall.

“There was a major screwup and the culture has to change,” Upton said of GM’s failure to recall 2.6 million vehicles for ignition problems linked to 13 deaths and 54 crashes for almost a decade. “And more than just one guy. The storm flags should have been flying a lot earlier.”

Upton cited Toyota Motor Corp.’s payment of a $1.2 billion fine to the Justice Department for wire fraud in discussing whether Congress should hike maximum NHTSA fines.

He said he wants to complete the GM investigation before “floating” an auto safety overhaul and said he’s “not close” to introducing an auto safety bill.

A Senate panel is planning to hold a GM hearing on July 17. Upton said the recent recalls by GM of millions of vehicles raise questions about when GM knew of other safety issues in recently recalled vehicles.

GM said it has fixed 388,288 vehicles in ignition switch recall as of July 3 — about 15 perecnt of all recalled vehicles.

GM has recalled a record 29 million vehicles worldwide so far this year, including about 25 million in the United States. It paid a record-setting $35 million fine to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for delaying the ignition switch recall. GM’s outside compensation adviser Ken Feinberg will begin receiving claims on Aug. 1.

dshepardson@detroitnews.com