Automotive News reports General Motors has split its engineering division in two, with executives Ken Kezler and Kenneth Morris becoming vice presidents of global vehicle components and subsystems and global product integrity, respectively. The split also means vice president of (what was) global vehicle engineering, John Calabrese will retire, though the retirement is alleged to not be linked with the ongoing recall crisis. The immediate changes are the result of the ongoing review of the ignition switch issue affecting the company since early this year, with the aim of flagging potential safety problems within a product sooner than when the division was united. GM product chief Mark Reuss proclaimed the new divisions “would have expedited a whole bunch of things” had they been in place earlier.
The new divisions may have been established too late, however, as Bloomberg reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is readying a new investigation into the automaker, this time involving the brake systems in the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. The probe comes from a report by an owner who experienced several incidences linked to the car’s driver-assist technologies, including one where the collision-avoidance system brought the car to a halt despite no traffic ahead of the vehicle, leading to a rear-end collision instead. The investigation is expected to affect around 60,580 Impalas, and GM is cooperating with the agency in the probe.
In addition, both GM and the NHTSA may find themselves under the gun once more. According to CNN Money, the recall issued in late March affecting 1.3 million Saturn Ions between 2004 and 2007 regarding power-steering issues is the second recall to have taken over a decade to resolve. The agency first received word of the Ion’s problems in 2004, with an investigation opened in 2011 after 4,800 complaints and 30,000 warranty claims were filed, while the automaker didn’t include the Ions in a 2010 power-steering recall despite the Saturn sharing the same part as those affected.
Reuters reports Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interested in bringing in former GM CEOs before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee over the main recall, especially Dan Akerson, who passed the torch to current CEO Mary Barra in late December of 2013, approximately a month before the recall began. Whether this happens will be up to Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who is in charge of scheduling hearings and selecting who will testify before the committee.
Finally, GM itself filed a motion before the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this week, asking the court to reinforce the liability protections established when the automaker left bankruptcy, forcing those whose lawsuits came prior to July 2009 to take their fight to “Old GM.” On the other side, the plaintiffs seeking to collect damages from “New GM” over “Old GM’s” negligence filed a proposed class action lawsuit that would prevent GM from using the protections. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber issued an order for a procedural conference May 2 to determine course of action moving forward, proclaiming “no substantive matters will be decided” during the conference.