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Senators accuse GM of covering up defective switch

Wednesday - 4/2/2014, 3:40pm  ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Members of a Senate panel are accusing General Motors of trying to cover up problems with an ignition switch that is now tied to 13 deaths.

At a hearing today, senators tried to get GM CEO Mary Barra (BAHR'-uh) to promise that anyone involved in such a cover-up would be punished. They also said GM should tell owners to stop driving all of the 2.6 million cars that are now being recalled for the faulty switch until they are repaired. GM is currently telling owners that the cars are fine to drive, as long as nothing is placed on the key chain.

As she did yesterday at a House hearing, Barra said many of the details Congress is looking for will come out in an internal GM investigation. And she tried to assure lawmakers that the company is now focused on safety and the consumers.

But many senators were not convinced. Democrat Barbara Boxer told her, "You don't know anything about anything." She said, "If this is the new GM leadership, it's pretty lacking."

Some of the questioning from senators focused on GM's approval of a replacement for the ignition switch in 2006 without changing the part number. Failing to change the number makes the part harder to track. And anyone investigating the cars wouldn't know why earlier switches were failing at a higher rate than later ones.

Several members of the panel implied that it was done intentionally by someone within the company, and that it could be a criminal violation.

%@AP Links

164-a-03-(Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., during Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing)-"it's pretty lacking"-Senator Barbara Boxer says she's not impressed with the way the company is handling things. (2 Apr 2014)

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162-a-12-(Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairman, Senate Commerce subcommittee, during hearing)-"of public trust"-Senator Claire Mccaskill says the company's delay in announcing a recall after learning of the problem raises doubts about whether it has really turned over a new leaf. (2 Apr 2014)

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165-a-10-(Mary Barra (BAHR'-uh), CEO, General Motors, testifying before Senate Commerce subcommittee)-"make a change"-GM CEO Mary Barra says the company was wrong not to give the replacement part a new number. (2 Apr 2014)

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GRAPHICSBANK: US Capitol building over General Motors logo, partial graphic (2 Apr 2014)

APPHOTO DCPM110: General Motors CEO Mary Barra listens as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee. Barra is back before Congress, where members of a Senate subcommittee are expressing doubts that the culture at the nation's No. 1 automaker has really changed. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (2 Apr 2014)

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APPHOTO DCPM215: Senate Consumer Protection subcommittee Chair Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., holds up a document as she questions General Motors CEO Mary Barra on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, during the subcommittee's hearing on General Motors. McCaskill said the new GM, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, had ample time to recall cars equipped with a faulty ignition switch that is linked to at least 13 deaths. GM began recalling the cars this February. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (2 Apr 2014)

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