(DETROIT) - General Motors has suspended two engineers with pay in the first disciplinary action linked to its delayed recall of thousands of small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem.
Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer reporter, says the action came after allegations during congressional hearings last week that at least one engineer tried to cover up the switch problem by fixing it without changing the part number.
GM, in a statement Thursday, said the engineers were placed on leave after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, whom GM has hired to figure out why the company was so slow to recall the cars. GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the problem, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.
Company spokesman Greg Martin would not identify the engineers.
"This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened," CEO Mary Barra said in the statement. "It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM."
GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, to replace the switches.
Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect the safety of customers. "GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so," Barra said in the statement.
Employees also will be recognized for ideas that make vehicles safer, the statement said.
No details of the program were given, but the statement said they will be announced within the next 30 days.
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