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GM Chief To Detail Handling Of Ignition Switch Defect On Capitol Hill

As members of Congress prepared to hear testimony from GM's CEO Tuesday, Ken and Jayne Rimer, whose daughter, Natasha Weigel, died in the crash of a 2005 Chevy Cobalt, spoke at a news conference held by family members of deceased drivers.

In a hearing before the House Oversight and Investigations panel, GM CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Acting Administrator David Friedman testify Tuesday on concerns surrounding GM's recall of a faulty ignition switch that's been linked to more than a dozen deaths.

The recall, which now includes more than 2 million vehicles, will be the focus of today's hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The event's title hints at lawmakers' frustration, and the grilling that likely awaits Barra: "The GM Ignition Switch Recall: Why Did It Take So Long?"

We'll update this post with news from the hearing. Barra, who rose to GM's top job in January, is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill for two days.

Barra has asked former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas to investigate her company's handling of the defect and the ensuing recall. In her written testimony, which GM posted online Monday, Barra tells the panel:

"When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers."As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation. We told the world we had a problem that needed to be fixed. We did so because whatever mistakes were made in the past, we will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future. Today's GM will do the right thing."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."

The GM recall has grown since it was first announced in February. It currently includes models of the Chevrolet Cobalt, Malibu and HHR, the Pontiac G5 and Solstice, and the Saturn Ion and Sky (see the updated list at the GM site).

One person who identified the safety defect was Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com. He described that moment to NPR's Sonari Glinton in a report for Monday's All Things Considered:

"'I remember coming up to a curve, and I moved my foot, and as I moved my foot, my knee kind of pinned this key fob between my knee and the steering column,' Oldham explains. 'And when I hit the brake, my leg moved down. And it basically pulled the key down and shut the car off.'"The systems that were connected to the engine just stopped working."'There was this moment of panic where I said, "Oh my God, the steering isn't working," he recalls."'I got the car slowed down and pulled to the side. Catastrophe was avoided.'"

Last month, Barra offered an apology for GM's mishandling of the crisis, saying that "something went very wrong." The company says that correcting the mechanical problems will cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in repair costs.

For a closer look at the flaw linked to the ignition switch, see our timeline, which tracks a winding sequence of events that date back to 2001.

GM faces a deadline of this Wednesday to answer more than 100 questions about the switch and its actions. Those questions come from the NHTSA, which has said GM didn't provide enough information to the agency about potential safety issues.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/

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