Federal regulators certainly aren’t hurting for reading material these days.
General Motors has now provided about 200,000 pages of information to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today in response to questions about its ignition switch recall. The release came last week, the same week that GM CEO Mary Barra testified to House and Senate subcommittees.
The paper deluge is in response to a special order from NHTSA for answers to 107 questions on matters leading up to the recall of 2.6 million small cars due to a defect in their ignition switches. The problem is linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths.
“The company has submitted some 200,000 pages of documents and will provide today answers to nearly 65% of the questions,” GM said in a statement. “GM is cooperating fully with NHTSA and is keeping the agency apprised at every step of its progress as it works to respond to the remaining questions within the Special Order.”
NHTSA officials said they will release the documents after the agency vets them and redacts anything deemed sensitive, personal or proprietary. The process could take weeks.
Additionally, David Friedman, NHTSA’s acting administrator, said concerns raised during testimony before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday have prompted the agency to contact other automakers to ask if they have had problems with air bags similar to those experienced by GM.
So far, he said, there is no “current indication of a risk.”
What concerns Friedman is that GM may have learned years ago that the inadvertent movement of the ignition switch from “run” to “accessory” could potentially disable air bag sensors and other electrical systems.
Air bags are designed to deploy whether a vehicle’s engine is running or not because power is often lost in a crash.
If GM or its supplier knew there was a chance the sensor was disabled — or if they were designed that way in the first place — Friedman said GM should have told NHTSA.
Friedman said it could have “radically changed” the agency’s approach toward investigating air bag non-deployments.