WASHINGTON — A House committee has launched an investigation into how General Motors Co. and federal regulators handled the recall of vehicles with a malfunctioning ignition switch that led to at least 13 traffic deaths.

As part of the probe, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing in the coming weeks to determine if there was a delay in GM’s recall of 1.6 million vehicles with the faulty part, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the panel’s chairman, said Monday night.

The committee also will look into the response of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the face of consumer complaints.

Agency documents show GM knew of the ignition-switch defect as far back as 2004 but didn’t issue the recall until last month.

“Did the company or regulators miss something that could have flagged these problems sooner?” Upton said.

The NHTSA is investigating GM’s handling of the issue. The automaker could be fined as much as $35 million.

Last week, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said GM would conduct a thorough review of whether it delayed a recall.

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