U.S. automaker General Motors is facing increasing pressure over its handling of a deadly defect in certain compact cars as news leaked that federal prosecutors and two congressional committees have opened an investigation into the matter.
The probe centers on whether GM broke any laws with its slow response to a problem with ignition switches in compact cars from model years 2003 to 2007.
Also investigating the recall are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.
At issue is why GM waited until February to recall 1.6 million older model compact cars worldwide, even though it admitted knowing about the problem for a decade. The faulty ignition switches have been linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths.
On February 13, GM announced the recall of more than 780,000 Cobalts and Pontiac G5s (model years 2005-2007). Two weeks later it added 842,000 Saturn Ion compacts (2003-2007), and Chevrolet HHR SUVs and Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky sports cars (2006-2007).
GM has said it will replace ignition switches that can shut off motors unexpectedly. When that happens, drivers lose power-assisted steering and brakes and can lose control of the vehicles. The ignition can slip from the run position to accessory or off, due partly to heavy key chains dangling from the steering column.