WASHINGTON - Conceding company officials knew of their cars' potentially deadly ignition switches for years, GM chief Mary Barra apologised Tuesday and said the automaker had a "civic responsibility" to make things right.
The manufacturer is under fire for not recalling Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other General Motors models over the past decade, despite its own evidence that the defects were posing a major hazard.
Thirteen deaths have been linked to the problems, and GM eventually issued mass recalls this year.
Barra said GM has acknowledged the problem, launched an exhaustive review to determine what and who is responsible, and pledged top-to-bottom changes in shifting from a "cost culture" to a focus on safety and quality.
"Today's GM will do the right thing," she told a House investigations panel in Washington.
"That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall," she added. "I am deeply sorry."
Lawmakers pointed to internal documents showing GM at first refused to change the faulty switches because it would have been too costly.
The lawmakers, and Barra, expressed astonishment that the company went ahead with using the parts even though they did not meet GM standards.