Automotive News is reporting that Sam Winegarden, GM’s vice president for global engine engineering, the company’s highest ranking powertrain executive, was fired this week along with about 10 other GM Powertrain employees in the U.S. and India, over cheating in GM’s emissions testing at its Indian subsidiary.
The problems have prompted the company to halt the sale of Chevy’s popular Sail hatchbacks and Tavera SUVs in that country. The local press has reported that GM has admitted to Indian authorities that some of their employees had fudged data on emissions tests in order to meet standards. The news comes at the same time that GM has announced a recall of 114,000 Taveras to fix what it calls emissions and specifications problems.
In a statement, GM confirmed that it has “dismissed several employees” over “violations of company policy” related to the Indian recall but a company spokesman declined to comment about Winegarden.
“We take these matters very seriously and hold our leaders and employees to high standards,” GM’s statement says. “When those standards are not met, we will take the appropriate action to hold employees accountable.”
Winegarden, apparently one of those held accountable, was GM’s top engine executive since 2004, and he had worked at the company for his entire adult life. He joined the automaker over 40 years ago as a co-op student at the Buick Motor Division while attending the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). His resume included a stint in the 1990s as chief engineer for the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group where he oversaw the development of the Northstar V-8 and premium V-6 engine lines. He later presided over development of the very successful LS family of V8 engines.
The Indian business newspaper Economic Times reported that GM India admitted to Indian regulators that employees violated testing procedures. In some cases engine swaps were done with set-aside engines measured to have lower emissions so the “ringer” equipped SUVs would pass testing.
In a July 18 letter to Indian regulators, GM wrote: “Over a period of time some employees of the company engaged in the practice of identifying engines with lower emission which were fine-tuned and kept aside to be used for installation on vehicles during inspection,” according to the newspaper.
GM also admitted that the reported weight of several models was “manipulated” so the vehicles would be subject to less stringent emission regulations. The newspaper said that the Indian government has set up an investigative committee. GM could face fines and other penalties.
GM India halted production and sale of the Tavera recently, saying the issues were not safety related and that the company “has since identified a solution to the issues and performed the required engineering validation, and is awaiting regulatory approvals.” Last month, GM also stopped production of diesel versions of the Sail, mentioning unspecified quality-control issues. The company plans to start selling the Sail again by August, but so far no recall for affected vehicles has been announced, unlike with the Tavera.