Transcript: Rep. Henry Waxman’s press briefing remarks on GM’s ignition switch recall – April 1, 2014

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) on GM’s ignition switch recall on April 1, 2014:

…We’re here under tragic circumstances. 13 Americans have been killed in defective General Motors vehicles.

Later today, I’ll have the opportunity to talk to Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, and ask her how and why the company took so long to inform the public about this defect and to recall the vehicles – vehicles they knew were hazardous.

But now, I want to acknowledge the families and some of those victims are joining us today for speaking up about their loved ones. I know it’s difficult and it takes a great deal of courage to speak out about what has happened. And I know they are re-experiencing the continuing pain that they’ve been feeling.

You’ve not only lost family members, but you’ve lost them in an accident that might have been prevented had GM taken action sooner.

We owe it to you to find out the facts, and we began our investigation several weeks ago and the information we have obtained to date reveals a disturbing pattern – a pattern where again and again GM discovered or was told of these problems with their vehicles and the company did nothing.

This morning, I’m releasing a new analysis of never-released GM warranty claims. GM has received over 130 warranty claims from drivers and GM technicians who experienced and identified the defect.

Drivers reported that their car shut off after hitting bumps or potholes at highway speeds, when they did something as simple as brushing the ignition switch with their knee. The comments from the vehicle owners in this report are chilling given what we now know.

I want to give some examples. These are all quotes. “Vehicle stalls out when hitting bump/pothole in road noticed at 50 miles per hour.” “When bumping ignition switch area, vehicle was shut off.” “Vehicle died at highway speeds.” “Ignition key turns off when going over bumps.” “Key ring heavy in shutting off ignition.” “Vehicle shuts off intermittently caused by bumping ignition with knee while driving.” “Vehicle quit running while driving about 70 miles per hours after hitting bump in the highway.”

GM knew about these problems. They got these quotes and information from their own customers and from their own technicians. But it took them more than a decade to recall the vehicles.

So we must find out what went wrong inside the company that allowed this to happen. We must also make action to assure that it does not happen again.

That’s why I’m introducing in the House the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2014. This bill is modeled on the legislation the Energy and Commerce Committee passed in 2010 but was never enacted into law. It will make more information on defects available to the public. It will increase NHTSA [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] funding and increase civil penalties for manufacturers when companies like to GM fail to comply with the law. I hope the committee will take up this legislation after today’s hearing.

On behalf of the families who are here today, we must improve the law to prevent the next auto safety tragedy.

Thank you very much.


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