By Massimo Calabresi
April 11, 2014

The engineer who designed the faulty ignition switch at the heart of the February GM recall of 2.6 million cars approved fixes to the system in 2006 without changing the GM part number, according to documents released by the House Oversight Committee on Friday.

The faulty design allowed the ignition switch to turn off accidentally, cutting power to electrical systems including air bags and assisted steering. The 2006 fix was intended to make electrical cut-offs less likely, the released documents show. Thirteen deaths have been linked to the failure.

The engineer, Ray DeGiorgio, testified under oath in April 2013 that he was unaware of the changes to the switch.

The head of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, said, “much work remains to be done in this investigation. Documents show individuals at GM allowed vehicles with safety concerns to remain on the road for almost a decade, resulting in at least 13 fatalities.”

Also in the documents released by the committee Friday is an e-mail to current GM chief Mary Barra dated Oct. 3, 2011, informing her of continuing failures with electric power steering in GM models. Barra apologized for GM’s handling of the ignition switch problem during testimony earlier this month and said she didn’t learn about the ignition switch problem until January. The email released Friday refers only to potential electric power steering issues, not ignition problems.

DeGiorgio was suspended by GM earlier this week.

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