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GM slow to act on recalls, House documents show

DETROIT — Documents released by a House subcommittee show that managers and employees at General Motors were often slow to react to safety problems — and that one part of GM often did not know what another was doing.

One of the documents is an e-mail showing that GM chief executive Mary Barra was made aware of power steering problems with the Saturn Ion in October 2011, when she was head of product development. It took the company more than two years to recall the cars for that problem.

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The power-steering issue is separate from the ignition-switch defect that is at the heart of a separate recall of 2.6 million small cars, which is the focus of a subcommittee investigation. GM has linked the switch defect to 13 deaths.

The e-mail was among dozens of documents released Friday. Others show that engineers were unaware the switch had been changed in 2007, and that regulators at times found GM to be slow to respond to requests for information.

GM has admitted knowing about the switch problem for more than a decade, yet it failed to recall the cars until February. The switch can unexpectedly slip out of the ‘‘run’’ position and shut down the cars’ engines, which cuts off power steering and stops air bags from deploying.

The e-mail does not link Barra to any decisions made regarding the switch. She has said that she only became aware of the matter in December. She has distanced herself from GM’s slow action on safety issues in the past, saying she is trying to install a culture that is focused on consumer protection.

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