Next Senate hearing on GM seen after company probe complete

Reuters
The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit
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The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The next round of hearings in the Senate to probe General Motors' delayed recalls of vehicles plagued by ignition-switch defects will come after the company completes its own internal probe, a Senate aide said on Tuesday.

"Senator (Claire) McCaskill's Consumer Protection subcommittee does intend to hold a follow-up hearing to gain more information surrounding the General Motors recall but will not set a date until after GM's internal investigation into the matter is complete," panel spokesman Andy Newbold said.

The Senate panel and a House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee are looking into the recalls that took GM more than a decade to conduct after becoming aware of a problem that has since been linked to at least 13 deaths.

GM has hired attorney Anton Valukas to conduct the internal investigation.

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra told Congress in early April that Valukas' investigation of her company's handling of the ignition switch problem would be completed in 45-60 days. That would mean mid-May to June 1 for Valukas to wrap up his work.

GM spokesman Jim Cain on Tuesday said Barra's timetable still holds.

A House committee aide said a date for its next hearings has not yet been set.

In early April hearings, Barra told the House and Senate committees that she was unable to answer many of their questions but would return to testify once she gathered information from Valukas.

The House panel has collected at least 350,000 pages of documents from the automaker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which oversees auto safety problems.

Besides Valukas' investigation, GM also has hired attorney Kenneth Feinberg to examine possible compensation for victims of crashes related to the faulty ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other low-cost GM vehicles.

Feinberg's work is expected to wrap up in early June.

The malfunctioning switches have been found to cause engines to stall, sometimes when operating at high speeds, and to prevent airbags, power brakes and power steering from operating as intended.

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, the senior Republican on the Senate subcommittee, said that earlier on Tuesday Delphi Automotive, the manufacturer of the recalled part, delivered some of the ignition switches to his office.

"As someone who works on cars, it's good to actually hold them, touch them," Heller said in a brief hallway interview.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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