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GM Has 'Culture Of Cover-Up,' Key Senator Says

General Motors CEO Mary Barra as she testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais
General Motors CEO Mary Barra as she testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Day Two of General Motors CEO Mary Barra's time testifying before Congress about safety problems with her company's cars has been highlighted by a top senator saying the company "repeatedly lied" about its problems and has fostered a "culture of cover-up."

From The Detroit News:

"The head of a Senate panel blasted General Motors Co. ... for failing to take action to fix defects earlier in the recall of nearly 2.6 million cars linked to 13 deaths. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who heads the Senate Commerce subcommittee ... said an engineer 'repeatedly lied' during depositions last year when he didn't admit to approving the changing of the faulty ignition switch part in April 2006 but didn't change the part number. GM had a 'culture of cover-up' that allowed an engineer to 'repeatedly lie under oath,' McCaskill said."

NPR's Craig Windham reports that "Barra insists that a new culture at GM — since the company emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2009 — puts safety first. But McCaskill was skeptical."

"Even under the new GM, the company waited nine months to take action after being confronted with specific evidence of this egregious violation of public trust," McCaskill said.

Barra did use her testimony today, Craig adds, to say that GM will make public all safety-related information from its internal investigation into why it took years to admit and fix the problems with ignition switches. After her testimony before a House subcommittee on Tuesday, Barra was criticized for saying the company would only share "appropriate" information.

Bloomberg News writes that on Wednesday:

"Barra said it was 'completely unacceptable' that the design of a defective small-car ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths was changed without a corresponding change in part number, which would mask a fix. She repeated her assertion to a U.S. House committee yesterday that GM focused on costs in the past and now makes the customer 'our compass.'

"Barra called the part change 'bad engineering' and pledged that GM employees will be fired for any wrongdoing. She said the engineer who signed off on the change in design of the part hasn't been fired and continues to work each day.

" 'I commit to you I will make changes, both people and process,' said Barra, who also promised to make GM engineers available to congressional investigators."

We followed her testimony Tuesday and related news in two posts:

-- GM CEO Barra Is Grilled Over Handling Of Ignition Switch Defect

-- Mother Of Victim: More Killed By GM Ignition Switch Defect

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.