Dealers Still Waiting For Replacements, DeGiorgio Linked To Original Design And Upgrade

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

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.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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  • CapVandal CapVandal on Apr 15, 2014

    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.

    • BigOldChryslers BigOldChryslers on Apr 15, 2014

      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.

  • ExPatBrit ExPatBrit on Apr 16, 2014

    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!

  • ToolGuy I am slashing my food budget by 1%.
  • ToolGuy TG grows skeptical about his government protecting him from bad decisions.
  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.