TODAY   |  March 10, 2014

GM recall too little, too late, safety advocates say

General Motors and the NHTSA are under pressure as safety advocates insist auto regulators should have done more after revelations that at least 13 people have died over the last decade in accidents involving cars recalled last month. NBC’s White House correspondent Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> we've got new developments this morning in the controversy over a massive recall by general motors . a leading government agency is now facing questions over why it declined to investigate consumer complaints sooner. nbc's peter alexander has that story from the white house this morning. peter, good morning.

>> savannah, good morning to you. just days ago, federal safety regulators demanded that general motors explain why it took ten years to issue a recall on cars with ignition problems. now, there are new reports that are questioning whether that same federal agency was aware of the problems years ago and didn't do more to get them fixed.

>> at least 13 people have died over the last decade in accidents involving gm cars that were only recalled last month, including teenagers whose chevy cobalt slammed into a tree in 2006 after the car they were riding in allegedly turned off suddenly.

>> come to the point where anybody had to be die in order for that car to get fixed.

>> former national highway transportation safety administrator now a safety advocate says nhtsa should've forced gm to fix the problem back then. found more than 260 complaints over the last 11 years about gm cars with ignition problems.

>> federal regulators a decade ago could've thoroughly investigated this. they didn't do it, they asked general motors for a little information, not much.

>> following gm's recall, federal investigators are demanding answers from the automaker about why it took so long to order a recall. gm's new ceo has launched an independent investigation and told employees, we will hold ourselves accountable and improve our processes so our customers do not experience this again. nhtsa told nbc news it took steps to review the accidents at the time, including three special crash investigations, which did not contain sufficient evidence of a possible safety defect trend that would warrant the agency opening a formal investigation.

>> again, this recall affects six different gm models including the chevy cobalt , saturn ion and pontiac solstice . here's the important part, if you own one of those cars, nhtsa is urging you to follow the recommendation to use only the ignition key, nothing else on the key ring if or when you're driving it and to bring it in, of course, as soon as you can for repairs.

>> thank you very much.