A Detroit court found a former GM engineer and her husband guilty of conspiring to steal hybrid car trade secrets. Their lawyers unsuccessfully argued that there were no secrets to steal. Ed Niedermeyer had said that for years.
Shanshan Du and her husband Yu Qin face lengthy prison sentences. Sentencing will occur in February 2013.
In 2010, the couple was indicted on charges including conspiracy for allegedly stealing GM hybrid technology between 2003 and 2005. According to the indictment, Du copied thousands of pages of GM trade secrets onto a portable computer hard drive five days after accepting a buyout offer.
When we covered this story in 2010, our now Editor Emeritus Ed Niedermeyer wrote:
“The real story here is just how stupid Du and Qin were for targeting The General’s hybrid technology between 2003 and 2005.
To this day GM still has yet to develop a commercially successful hybrid drivetrain, and at the time of the alleged theft, only the highly unsuccessful BAS “mild hybrid” system (production start in 2006), the PHT truck mild hybrid system (production in 2005), and expensive, complicated “two-mode” hybrid system (production in 2008) were on track for eventual production. What Chery, Du or Qin saw in that technology is utterly baffling… and their attempt at industrial espionage may well have been the greatest compliment ever paid to GM’s long-abortive attempt to catch up with Toyota and Honda in the area of hybrid technology.”
As proof, Niedermeyer entered the video which we play again above. At the four minute mark, a former top executive at GM testifies that back then, there was nothing worth stealing.
The couple’s lawyers used the same line of reasoning, but could not convince the Detroit jury. When the matter goes to appeal, possibly the attorneys can call Lutz as a witness. Or Niedermeyer.