GM Internal Report Reveals Communication Breakdown over Faulty Ignition Switch
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Jun 05, 2014 in Car Accidents
The report promised by General Motors regarding what company officials knew about the design changes in its defective ignition switch has finally been released, and its findings reveal nearly 15 years of serious internal miscommunications at all levels.
Since GM CEO Mary Barra's congressional testimony in April, engineer Ray DeGiorgio has come under fire for his knowledge of the parts defect and subsequent approval of its use. Federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, who prepared the report for GM, singled out DeGiorgio as the only person who was aware that the part had failed numerous rotational torque tests when it was approved for production.
In a town hall meeting on Thursday, June 5, Barra claimed that 15 people had been fired over the issue, and five more disciplined. Barra cited Valukas's findings, claiming that there was no cover-up to keep the ignition switch changes from being made, only a pattern of misconduct and incompetence preventing executives from understanding that a safety issue was present.
The report exposed communication between DeGiorgio and parts manufacturer Delphi, which highlighted DeGiorgio's familiarity with the switch's problems, despite his 2013 testimony in a wrongful death case that he had no memory of approving it for production.
According to the report, a different problem with the ignition switch may have preoccupied DeGiorgio from addressing the moving stall issue. Apparently the switch also had difficulty starting vehicles, or cranking, in cold weather.
In a 2002 email, DeGiorgio may have asked Delphi not to alter the part because it would have interfered with the electrical performance of the switch. The email noted that a change might need to be made prior to the Chevrolet Cobalts 2004 launch.
The email was signed Ray (tired of the switch from hell) DeGiorgio.
Valukas's report explained that other engineers at GM may not have been aware that a vehicle stall could result in air bag non-deployment. Because of this misunderstanding, the company may have categorized the ignition switch issue as one of convenience rather than safety, and explored options to offset, but not completely correct, its drawbacks.
What this series of misunderstandings may have led to was the death of 13 people driving cars with a defective part. Fifteen years after the initial issue was ever noticed, GM is scrambling to explain its actions, the legality of which remain to be determined.
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