(Confirms media report, adds quote, background)
WASHINGTON, March 21 U.S. Transportation
Secretary Anthony Foxx asked the department's inspector general
on Friday to review whether the government's auto safety agency
had properly investigated reports of ignition problems in
recalled General Motors cars that have been linked to 12
Foxx said he ordered the investigation "out of an abundance
Several safety watchdogs have said the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration should have ordered GM to recall
the cars as early as 2007. The automaker has said it first
learned of the defect in 2001, before the cars went into
"At the present time, we are not aware of any information to
suggest that NHTSA failed to properly carry out its safety
mission based on the data available to it and the processes it
followed," Foxx said.
Last month, GM said it was recalling 1.6 million 2005-2007
Chevrolet Cobalts, 2003-2007 Saturn Ions and other models due to
a faulty ignition switch that could cause the engine to turn off
while driving, making the car harder to steer and brake and
GM has said the defect has been linked to 12 deaths and 31
NHTSA is part of the Department of Transportation, and DOT
Inspector General Calvin Scovell will conduct the investigation.
Foxx said in a memo to Scovell that he has also asked NHTSA and
DOT's Office of General Counsel to conduct a joint review.
The safety agency itself is investigating GM's handling of
the recall, and Congress is scheduled to hold hearings on the
matter next month. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan has opened a
criminal probe of GM.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)