INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – General Motors’ new CEO Mary Barra answered questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, after 13 people died while riding in GM cars with faulty ignition switches.
Paperwork shows the company knew about the problem in 2001, but failed to fix the issue.
Victims’ family members were also in Washington on Tuesday, listening closely to Barra’s testimony. They were hoping for some answers as to how the largest automaker in the U.S. could go for years without addressing a deadly concern.
“I’m fighting for my family and I’m fighting for my son,” said Carie Sharkey, whose son died in a crash. “He’ll never be able to watch his nieces and nephews grow up.”
That fight is a legal battle by Sharkey and family members of 12 other victims who died when the ignition switch on their GM cars popped out of drive, and caused their loved ones to lose the ability to steer or brake.
“I close my eyes, I think about how he died, and it’s not fair,” said Sharkey.
Congress grilled Barra, who didn’t have many answers, but vows things will be done differently from now on.
“Today’s GM will do the right thing,” said Barra. “That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall, especially to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured. I am deeply sorry.”
In 2006, GM quietly improved the ignition in their small cars. But the company didn’t announce a recall until February of this year.
“I’m an angry mother,” said Sharkey. “My family’s hurt. I’ll never forget that 4:30 in the morning knock at the door from two troopers. I just, I want justice.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were united against GM on Tuesda, saying the fix to the ignition switch problem would have cost less than $2 to fix.
Barra said the company is now switching from a “cost culture” to one focused on safety. Despite the faulty ignition switch issue, reports out today say sales of GM cars were actually up four percent from this time a year ago.