WASHINGTON, July 8 The head of Delphi Automotive
Plc, maker of ignition switches linked to at least 16 fatal car
crashes, is expected to face intensive questioning next week
from a U.S. Senate panel investigating General Motors Co'
handling of the issue.
A Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing, scheduled for July
17, will mark the first appearance by an executive of the switch
manufacturer before committees investigating GM. Delphi has been
named as a co-defendant along with GM in some personal injury
lawsuits filed by accident victims and their families.
Delphi CEO Rodney O'Neal is expected to join GM CEO Mary
Barra at the witness table along with GM's chief counsel Michael
Milliken. The witness list includes Kenneth Feinberg, who helped
GM establish a victims compensation fund, and Anton Valukas, who
recently issued a report detailing GM decade of inaction in
recalling millions of automobiles to fix the safety defect.
Barra testified at the first subcommittee hearing on April
14 and faced often hostile questioning from Democrats and
Republicans on the panel.
Shortly afterward, four senators on the Senate Commerce,
Science and Transportation Committee, including Chairman Jay
Rockefeller, wrote O'Neal demanding information on Delphi's role
in the ignition switch problem.
"It is our understanding that a fix was proposed by Delphi
regarding the ignition switch in 2005 but GM did not adopt the
change," wrote Rockefeller and Senators John Thune, Claire
McCaskill and Dean Heller.
The ignition defect has caused GM vehicles, including
Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to unexpectedly stall. That,
in turn, has caused air bags to fail to deploy during crashes.
The senators have asked Delphi to provide documents and
information on why GM may have rejected the ignition switch
redesign and whether Delphi communicated with federal
The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce
Committee is also investigating GM and has held two hearings
with Barra testifying.
A committee aide said on Tuesday that Delphi has submitted
approximately 7,500 pages of documents in the probe and that the
company is continuing to produce more documents.
The aide would not say whether Delphi officials have been
interviewed by committee investigators.
O'Neal rose through the ranks of GM before moving to Delphi,
which was part of GM before it was spun off as an independent
O'Neal and Barra both graduated from Kettering University,
the General Motors institute, and worked in GM production before
climbing the executive ranks.
Delphi currently has 160,000 employees, 126 manufacturing
sites and 15 technical centers in 32 countries.
In 2006, a GM engineer authorized Delphi to change the
internal workings of the switch, but the part number was not
changed, a departure from industry procedures.
The Senate committee has asked Delphi whether GM engineers
or others attempted to conceal the change.
Since taking the reins at GM early this year, Barra has
announced steps to improve GM's corporate culture, which has
been blamed for allowing the safety problem to fester.
(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Marilyn Thompson and