GM names former U.S. auto safety chief to global regulatory post

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WASHINGTON — General Motors Co on Wednesday named David Strickland, the former top U.S. auto-safety official who now serves as a senior Senate aide, as its regulatory affairs chief as the largest American automaker expands its electric vehicle plans.

Detroit-based GM said it is tapping Strickland as vice president for global regulatory affairs, beginning Oct. 1.

Strickland is currently the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s staff director. He previously served as U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) chief under former President Barack Obama.

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GM, moving aggressively to develop self-driving vehicles, has said it aspires to stop selling gasoline-powered new light-duty passenger vehicles by 2035. Strickland will also be working on self-driving vehicle issues.

The automaker’s global public policy chief Omar Vargas said in a statement that Strickland will help “drive regulatory policies in support of GM’s growth initiatives, including our vision for an all-electric and autonomous future.”

The agency that Strickland formerly headed is investigating 13 reported fires involving GM’s electric Chevrolet Bolt. GM in August widened its recall of the Bolt to more than 140,000 vehicles to replace battery modules, at a cost now estimated at $1.8 billion, and has extended the shutdown of a Michigan assembly plant to mid-October.

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GM said this week it plans to begin replacing these batteries next month.

Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell noted that Strickland has served on the panel for more than 11 years during various stints.

“I’m happy that someone with David’s integrity and experience will have a hand in advancing General Motors’ transition to electric vehicles,” Cantwell said.

Melissa Porter, the committee’s deputy staff director, will assume Strickland’s responsibilities. Porter was heavily involved in the efforts last year to enact reforms to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of airplane manufacturers following two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 MAX airliners.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham and Bernadette Baum)

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