13 GM deaths are tied to a 57-cent part; CEO assures Congress the company has changed its ways

In this Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 file photo, the logo for General Motors decorates the entrance at the site of a GM information technology center in Roswell, Ga. A congressional committee is investigating the way General Motors and a federal safety agency handled a deadly ignition switch problem in compact cars. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration received a large number of complaints about the problem during the past decade. But GM didn't recall the 1.6 million cars worldwide until last month. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
April 2, 2014 1:45:55 AM PDT
The fix for a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 traffic deaths would have cost just 57 cents, members of Congress said Tuesday as they demanded answers from General Motors' new CEO on why the automaker took 10 years to recall cars with the defect.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill before a House subcommittee, GM's Mary Barra acknowledged under often testy questioning that the company took too long to act. She promised changes at GM that would prevent such a lapse from happening again.

"If there's a safety issue, we're going to make the right change and accept that," said Barra, who became CEO in January and almost immediately found herself thrust into one of the biggest product safety crises Detroit has ever seen.

But as relatives of the crash victims looked on intently, she admitted that she didn't know why it took years for the dangerous defect to be announced. And she deflected many questions about what went wrong, saying an internal investigation is under way.

Since February, GM has recalled 2.6 million cars - mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions - over the faulty switch, which can cause the engine to cut off in traffic, disabling the power steering, power brakes and air bags and making it difficult to control the vehicle. The automaker said new switches should be available starting April 7.

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