What did GM know about its ignition-switch defect, and when did it know it? GM’s new CEO Mary Barra told Congress that she didn’t know about the issue until after taking the top job in January 2014, but e-mails released by Congress show that Barra was alerted to the issue in late 2011, while she was executive VP of Global Product Development. CBS reported it last night on their broadcast news program:

Barra had earlier testified that GM didn’t do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to issue a recall, but the e-mails strongly suggest otherwise:

An October 2012 message from lead switch engineer Ray Degiorgio reads: “If we replaced switches on ALL the model years…the piece price would be about $10.00 per switch…based on…1.5 million units total.”

GM estimates the company could have fixed the problem for $15 million a year and a half ago. They waited until this February to warn drivers and issue a recall. It’s now cost GM at least $1.3 billion.

“This inexpensive car is probably going to be the most expensive car GM ever made,” said Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.), who heads the House investigation.

Inform News says that another e-mail may be a “smoking gun” regarding GM’s refusal to change the part number on the defective switch:

All of this still leaves the question about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s lack of action over the switch and airbag issues. The NHTSA had received a number of complaints about the defect, and yet did nothing — while Treasury had a large ownership stake in GM. After the Obama administration finally divested itself of GM ownership, suddenly the NHTSA got interested in pursuing this defect from GM. We’ve seen Congress haul GM execs to Capitol Hill for high-profile testimony; when will it be NHTSA’s turn?

Addendum: I suppose it’s not surprising to see this clip was sponsored by Ford …