By on April 14, 2014

GM ignition diagram

Automotive News reports dealers are still waiting for the ignition switches meant to replace the out-of-spec switch at the center of the ongoing recall crisis at General Motors. The switch was to have arrived at dealerships beginning this week, yet most dealers are in a “holding pattern” on deliveries. Once the parts do arrive, service bays will begin work on affected customer vehicles immediately before turning toward the used lot, where vehicles under the recall are currently parked until the customer vehicles are fixed.

As for GM seeking help from NASA with its woes, however, The Detroit Bureau learned from NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications Bob Jacobs that his employer “is not working with General Motors on its ignition switch issue”; a separate source claimed “low-level” discussions between the two were taking place, but hasn’t gone any further thus far. He added that while NASA would be more than willing to help GM, a formal request would require some coordination between the agency and both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Justice Department so as to not interfere “with their own, ongoing investigations of the GM ignition switch recall.”

Speaking of the Justice Department, Reuters says five senators, including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Barbara Boxer of California, penned a letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to “intervene in pending civil actions to oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility for damages”:

We write to request your immediate intervention and assistance on behalf of victims of severe damage – financial harm, physical injury, and death – resulting from serious ignition switch defects in General Motors (‘GM’) cars.

The aforementioned actions may be in reference to the liability shield erected upon the automaker’s 2009 exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where “New GM” is only responsible for the claims linked to the switch from June 2009 forward.

That division within the company may be more of a thin line than a 4-inch-thick steel plate, however, as Autoblog reports an investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee uncovered an email exchange between the NHTSA and GM last July to discuss the latter’s “indifferent attitude toward safety issues” face-to-face. The agency cited the automaker’s slow response to urgent matters and preference toward regional recalls over full recalls as two examples of GM not having changed much since leaving bankruptcy.

Bloomberg adds the agency itself didn’t do enough to take GM to task on its attitude toward safety, though, based on a memo unearthed by the committee regarding airbag failures on a number of Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions with warranty claims being four times’ higher than similar competitors. The decision to investigate those claims was rejected by a review group within the NHTSA, believing the airbag issue “did not stand out” among other incidences of failure.

Automotive News reports the committee also found an email chain that ties GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio — who denied having knowledge of the April 2006 change to the ignition without a change to the part number — with said change. In short: DeGiorgio signed-off on both changes to the spring and plunger to help prevent the slipping issue now linked to 13 fatalities and 33 accidents, as well as on the decision to retain the original number issued to the part he designed for the Saturn Ion as his first project for GM in 2001.

Regarding the Ion, Reuters says the troubled development of the compact vehicle — and the equally troubled relationship between GM and supplier Delphi — may have laid the groundwork for the current recall crisis. The supplier alerted the automaker about the out-of-spec switch, but fearing an embarrassing introduction, money issues, and the possible wrath of then-vice chairman of product development Bob Lutz, GM pressed ahead with the switch as-is.

 

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21 Comments on “Dealers Still Waiting For Replacements, DeGiorgio Linked To Original Design And Upgrade...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “airbag failures on a number of Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions with warranty claims being four times’ higher than similar competitors”

    “In short: DeGiorgio signed-off on both changes to the spring and plunger to help prevent the slipping issue now linked to 13 fatalities and 33 accidents, as well as on the decision to retain the original number issued to the part he designed for the Saturn Ion as his first project for GM in 2001.”

    “Regarding the Ion, Reuters says the troubled development of the compact vehicle — and the equally troubled relationship between GM and supplier Delphi — may have laid the groundwork for the current recall crisis. The supplier alerted the automaker about the out-of-spec switch, but fearing an embarrassing introduction, money issues, and the possible wrath of then-vice chairman of product development Bob Lutz, GM pressed ahead with the switch as-is.”

    This ignition switch issue is symptomatic of GM of the period, a dysfunctional company struggling to keep its head above water.

    • 0 avatar

      “At the time, many of the crashes now tied to faulty General Motors ignition switches looked like the predictable consequences of drunken driving, speeding or inattentiveness late at night. Some were a violent and tragic combination of all three.”

      “Another factor muddying detection of the potential cause was that more than half of the 13 people whose deaths GM has linked to the recall were not wearing seat belts”

      “Police say they had no clear reason to suspect anything was amiss with the cars. They had seen plenty of crashes in which airbags didn’t deploy, for a variety of reasons.”

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20140414/OEM11/304149932/clues-in-gm-crashes-easy-to-miss

      Spin it how you want…

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        Sorry, but the evidence is that GM knew there was a problem, and chose to ignore it because, statistically, nobody would notice 13 extra deaths. It was irresponsible and uncaring. I don’t believe saying so is “spin”.

        • 0 avatar

          Sorry, but it is highly unlikely that anyone at GM or NHTSA or any of the investigators realized that having a torque requirement lower than specification killed people. They all realized that it could cause a car to stall in some rare conditions, but that is about it.

          Amazing how the armchair quarterbacks with 20/20 hindsight come out of the woodwork like lambs to slaughter whenever they see a chance to pile on…

          I’m done.

          • 0 avatar
            Erikstrawn

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/25/business/carmaker-misled-grieving-families-on-a-lethal-flaw.html?_r=2

            Yes, you are done.

    • 0 avatar

      Attended the JD Power event today in NYC where Mary Barra addressed the group. Dealers report receiving repair kit and performing the repairs. I believe she will make sure things are changed to prevent thing like this from happening again, but at the rate they turn over execs these days, who knows how long she’ll be in the job. The replaced to execs yesterday.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Hey we managed to dump some of the blame on “Maximum Bob” Lutz.

    http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/Bob-Lutz.jpg

    Can you hear me now? Good.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    DeGiorgio’s got an interesting ride ahead. From the outside it looks like the list includes perjury, firing, probable loss of pension, possible civil and additional criminal actions. He also has to live with personal responsibility for much of the delay in the recall process, which may have caused some of the injuries and deaths. In the end this all stems from the failure to design a fairly standard part correctly, and (worse) trying to cover it up.
    Exactly how big a role the overall GM culture played in this sad scenario has yet to be determined, but it feels like there’s more to this than the incompetence and malfeasance of one individual. These sort of changes don’t usually happen in a vacuum. The situation also resonates so precisely with common narratives about GM beancounting, poor reliability and lack of customer concern…it’s the perfect storm. I only hope Barra’s hands are clean so she can take this sad situation and make the necessary changes to restore company reputation via actual product performance.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      DeGiorgio is looking like a nice patsy to me. No, no, it wasn’t our culture, our structure, our leadership in chaos, or our supplier… it was that guy he is single-handily responsible for all of it.

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        “it was that guy he is single-handily responsible for all of it.”

        And sadly you’re right. It’s much easier for the prosecutors, the politicians, the federal bureaucrats, the GM hacks, and everyone else to say one guy did it. It wasn’t an engineering department cut to the bone that they threw some random inexperienced person on the job. It wasn’t a test and evaluation group that isn’t allowed to test or evaluate, just sign off on the release to manufacturing. It wasn’t the configuration control auditors that probably got fired in the early 90′s. It wasn’t the program/platform manager who wasn’t invested in this car which was designed from day one to lose money, with his only potential glory being to lose less money.

        Nope. One guy’s fault. Soley him.

        And this is why you don’t buy GM, ever, for any reason. (Obligatory anti-GM bias note here.)

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          This is all starting to sound a bit.. um…. lone gunman on the grassy knoll… sort of thing.

          DeGiorgio may of signed off on it but could GM be that inept that a mid level engineer could do this and no one noticed?

          I doubt it.

      • 0 avatar
        Number6

        Speaking as an engineer with 19 years experience, there is NO WAY this guy worked in a vacuum. Somebody above him was OK with this work. They’re paid a management bonus for a reason…not officially for kissing ass or saying yes repeatedly to their boss, but to be responsible for their subordinate’s work. I smell a coverup.

        • 0 avatar

          > Speaking as an engineer with 19 years experience, there is NO WAY this guy worked in a vacuum.

          As an “engineer with 19 years”, can you comment on the number of times you’ve experienced sheer incompetence vs. conspiratorial coverups?

  • avatar
    360joules

    “As for GM seeking help from NASA with its woes,”

    Awesome! Since NASA is outsourcing these days, maybe SpaceX can figure it all out!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Toyota got NASA to help them on the UA issue and still got fined a billion plus…… and how is NASA going to help GM????

      Designing a switch that works ……………. wait for it………..

      isn’t exactly rocket science.

  • avatar

    As an example of journalistic ethics from reuters:

    “Saturn Ion drivers in complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration described putting their lives at risk when engines inexplicably stalled. There were more than 550 complaints for the 2003 Ion alone…. The federal agency has repeatedly said it did not have enough evidence to show a defect trend.”

    No gold stars for guessing whether the 550 is directly relevant to “engines inexplicably stalled”.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    If GM can’t make something as simple as ignition switches, it kinda makes me wonder what else they can’t make properly?
    Looks like I’ll stick to Dodge, Jeep, and Nissan…

    —————

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Thing is– it’s too simple to put any other company into this statement to support your previous biases.

      EX:

      “If Honda can’t get something as simple as sound deadening right without resorting to using strange buzzer/speaker devices to mask it….”

      “If Toyota can’t build me a Camry with a bodyshell that wasn’t designed in 2002…”

      “If Dodge can’t build me a 40MPG mid-size…”

      “If Hyundai can’t build me something that isn’t dented straight off the boat…”

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    If you replace the lock cylinder, then your ignition key no longer works on your doors or trunk. Assuming anyone still manually locks their doors.

    Or am I missing something here?

    I had a lock cylinder go bad back a number of years ago when I had to do my own repairs for financial reasons. I sorta ripped the front off … they had some sort of break off bolts or something.

    I just relied on a screwdriver to start it up. Prototype of the modern keyless ignition.

    After 100k miles, I recently took the locking lug nuts off. They are a pain in the ass, and people around where I live don’t seem to steal a lot of wheels. When I used to use retreads, I had one of those X pattern lug nut wrench. You could get em off, or break em off. At that time, my idea of a luxury car was one that started and had over a 1/2 tank of gas.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      The problem is probably not with the lock cylinder. They would just remove your existing lock cylinder and reinstall it in the new ignition switch assembly.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    So any car that ever stalls due to the failure of electrical power is a killer because of the failure of power assisted conveniences.

    So a main fuse blows, the battery dies or something:

    Airbag fail, power steering fail, power brakes fail,wipers, washers starter fail, headlights out, no hazard warnings, windows won’t go down, door locks won’t work.

    All or some of the above.

    Any vehicle on the road today could potentially do this, in fact those vehicles that you see broken down on the side of the highway waiting for the tow truck all exhibited this behavior, some of them coasted to the shoulder but some just cut out!

    The lawyers should do well!


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