Delphi told panel GM approved ignition switches below specifications

General Motors approved ignition switches for cars that have been linked to 13 deaths, even though the parts did not appear to meet the company's specifications, officials of Delphi Automotive told U.S. congressional investigators.

In a memo released on Sunday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, documents provided by GM and a federal regulator provided "unsettling" information, according to Republican Representative Tim Murphy, who leads a subcommittee of the panel.

The memo was released ahead of Tuesday's testimony from GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, who will appear at the committee's first public hearing on the recalls.

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The information from Delphi officials was detailed in the memo, which is mainly a chronology of actions taken by GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since the late 1990s and through Friday, when GM expanded its global recall of cars with defective ignition switches to 2.6 million.

The Energy and Commerce Committee said GM had submitted more than 200,000 documents on the ignition switches. The panel said the NHTSA submitted about 6,000 documents.

Read MoreGM feeling pressure to pay recall victims

Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, did not give details on what was "unsettling" about the information the panel received. His statement was accompanied by the memo, prepared by Republican investigators.

According to one entry of the chronology in the memo, officials of Delphi, which supplied the ignition switches to the recalled GM cars, told committee investigators that GM had approved the part, even though sample testing of the ignition switch torque was below the original specifications set by the automaker.

GM knew as early as 2001 that it was facing problems with its ignition switch, but no auto recalls were ordered until earlier this year.

A February 2005 entry in the congressional committee's chronology illustrates that engineers were grappling with what to do about the defective ignition switches.

"Engineers considered increasing or changing the ignition switch 'torque effort,' but were advised by the ignition switch engineer that it is 'close to impossible to modify the present ignition switch' as the switch is 'very fragile and doing any further changes will lead to mechanical and/or electrical problems.'"

The committee's memo concludes with a series of questions, which likely will dominate Tuesday's hearing with Barra. Those questions ask why it took GM so long to identify its ignition switch problem.

"Why did GM approve ignition switches that did not meet its specifications for torque performance? What was GM's assessment of the implications for performance and safety," the memo also asked.

It is also not clear yet who approved a revision to the ignition switch in 2006, and why the change did not lead to an earlier recall of older model cars to fix the problem.

- By Reuters

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