Tuesday, U.S. senators began to turn their questions about the massive General Motors (GM) ignition switch recall to the company’s ignition switch supplier, Delphi Automotive PLC. The controversial defective ignition switches are believed to have been responsible for 13 fatal crashes, after GM’s decade-long delay in addressing the problem’s existence.
Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.V., along with three other senators, wrote to Rodney O’Neal, Delphi Automotive’s CEO, asking for a more thorough explanation of how GM and Delphi planned to handle to the ignition switch issue after their engineers first brought it to their attention in the mid-2000s.
Senators asked Delphi why GM had initially rejected an ignition switch fix that the supplier proposed in 2005 and requested any documents that could explain why GM had approved the new part in 2006, but used an old part number. Senators who signed the letter, including Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-MO., John Thune, R-S.D., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., are all members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
“As we continue evaluating the GM recall, it is critically important that we understand the decisions made by Delphi and the company’s interaction with GM,” the senators said in their letter. “Rather than relying only on GM’s version of events, we believe that consumers throughout the United States should hear directly from you regarding this issue and Delphi’s actions.”
According to the letter, senators were curious if Delphi challenged GM’s decision to not fix the flawed switches in 2005 and whether it had considered contacting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the problem. Another question inquired how Delphi decides when a modified part should be implemented under a new part number.
More than a dozen fraud and personal injury lawsuits have surfaced since GM’s recall of more than 2.5 million vehicles. Although plaintiffs have continually focused their attention on GM’s role in the ignition switch controversy, Delphi has been named in at least one personal injury suit, which was filed by the Beasley Allen law firm in Indiana state court this week.