Did General Motors reject safer switch?

(WXYZ) - As the General Motors recall enters its third month, safety advocates are questioning whether—more than 10 years ago— the company rejected a safer ignition switch, just to save money.

In a letter sent to GM CEO Mary Barra today, the Center for Auto Safety says new documents reveal that the company “created two competing designs for the ignition switch…but GM chose to use the ignition switch that would fail.”

The difference between the switches came down to the length of what’s called a detent spring and plunger. In the old switch, the part was shorter, making it easier for the ignition to switch from “run” to “off.” But the better, safer part—according to the letter—had a longer spring and plunger that increased the ignition’s torque.

The Center for Auto Safety says the company “picked a smaller and cheaper ignition switch that cost consumers their lives and saved General Motors money.”

And adding to GM’s woes, an answer Mary Barra gave yesterday at Q and A in New York has angered at least one lawmaker on Capitol Hill.  Barra was asked why GM engineers who, years ago, were aware of the dangers posed by the faulty ignition switches were suspended.

"You know, I think there was a lot of attention, and I know we agonized about the decision, but we felt it was right for the individuals and right for the company at this time. But they are on paid leave," said Barra in respone. 

Minutes after Barra said that, Sen. Richard Blumenthal took her to task on Twitter: “Unbelievable she would 'agonize' over holding accountable those whose concealment of safety defects caused injuries & death.”