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GM to launch product development group focused on safety

General Motors CEO Mary Barra testifies before the Senate Commerce and Transportation Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance subc
General Motors CEO Mary Barra testifies before the Senate Commerce and Transportation Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance subc

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) - General Motors Co. will create a new global product integrity organization that will focus on product safety and quality, said GM Chief Executive Mary Barra in a speech on Tuesday.

"This new way of developing vehicles will provide the highest levels of safety, quality, and customer service, and ensure that a situation like the ignition-switch recall doesn't happen again," Barra said in New York.

Barra addressed the recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches, which she has admitted GM bungled. At least 13 people have been killed in older model GM small cars with the defective switches.

Barra, in comments to reporters, maintained her estimate given to U.S. lawmakers at the start of April that its investigation into the recall headed by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas would be completed by the middle to the end of May.

"When Mr. Valukas has completed his investigation, we will then take the appropriate actions and then, as I've said, we will be transparent. So that's where we're at."

Barra also noted that a team at GM is working around the clock to answer the full slate of questions asked of the top-selling U.S. automaker by the U.S. National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration on the ignition switch defect issue.

Last week, NHTSA said GM did not answer more than a third of the 107 questions the safety regulator asked. GM faces a $7,000-per-day fine since the April 3 deadline for not responding to all 107 questions.

She said GM may wait for the completion of Valukas' investigation before answering some of NHTSA's questions.

"We are trying to be as responsive as possible but we will not sacrifice the accuracy and the right detail of the answers," Barra said.

Barra made her speech at an auto industry conference held by the National Automobile Dealers Association and J.D. Power.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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