By on May 6, 2014

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Autoblog reports another recall has been issued by General Motors, this time concerning 51,640 2014 Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia crossovers screwed together between March 26 and August 15 of last year. The affected vehicles possess an engine control module whose software may provide an inaccurate fuel gauge reading, forcing the driver to pull to the side of the road should the tank prove empty instead of a quarter to empty. Owners have been asked to bring their affected crossover for a reflashing of the ECM to correct the issue.

As for the original recall, Automotive News reports GM engineering executive Jim Federico has retired from the company. Federico led a team of engineers in a 2012 investigation of the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the recall, specifically on whether an increase in the switch’s torque would prevent it from slipping out of the “on” position, as well as why the switch prevented sensors in affected vehicles from deploying during a crash. The engineer, who reported directly to current CEO Mary Barra in 2011 when she was global product development chief, had a hand in the development of a handful of vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Adam and Buick Regal. A GM spokesman said Federico’s immediate retirement is not related to the ongoing recall crisis.

Meanwhile, the publication put forth a timeline involving engineer Ray DeGiorgio’s original decision to make no changes to the switch, and his subsequent about-face months later that ultimately led to the introduction of the redesigned switch in late April 2006. In short, the atmosphere tied to the company’s “cost culture,” when paired with the financial downward spiral that led to both GM and supplier Delphi seeking emergency funding from the federal government in 2008, gave rise to DeGiorgio — responsible for the switch’s design since 1999 — originally seeing the upgrade as impossible due to the design’s fragility possibly leading to more problems in a redesign. Other proposed solutions were deemed as an unacceptable business case by Chevrolet Cobalt engineering manager Gary Altman, who discovered the problem by accidentally bumping his knee against the switch in testing. Later on, DeGiorgio sought more data into the problem despite his original verdict, working with Delphi to create the upgraded part.

The Detroit News reports the law firms of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles P.C. in Montgomery, Ala. and the Cooper Firm in Marietta, Ga. are joining forces to handle 200 product liability lawsuits against GM in addition to the lawsuits already filed by the firms separately. Founding shareholder of Beasley Allen et al, Jere Beasley, proclaimed the unification necessary in order to “help GM’s victims take on the powerful automaker.” Cooper’s namesake Lance Cooper added that not only will the joint venture benefit their clients, but it will also “allow us to continue in our efforts to get at the truth of what GM knew and when they knew it, so that the American public gets answers to their questions.”

Over in Korea, Automotive News reports GM Korea is devising strategies in the wake of Chevrolet’s 2016 European and Holden’s 2017 manufacturing exits. Aside from its newly expanded design studio, the subsidiary has reduced total daily work hours from 20 to 16, which would cut annual production by 100,000 units while offsetting 150,000 lost annual sales from Europe. Other cuts include early retirement for salaried employees — 200 of 6,000 eligible having accepted thus far — and 60,000 units at GM Korea’s Gunsan plant, where the Cruze and Orlando are assembled. In return, more vehicles could be sent to Australia and other markets from Korea in place of those once manufactured in Australia come 2017 and beyond.

Finally, GM has opted to simplify its customer satisfaction survey in order to gain knowledge from its base faster. The new survey, currently in the pilot phase, is comprised of less than 10 questions, and will ask consumers to rate their dealership experience on a scale of one to five stars, as well as write an online review. If successful, the original 22-question survey would be replaced by the shorter version, both of which are used to award quarterly payouts for dealers under the GM Standards for Excellence program.

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13 Comments on “GM Issues ECM Recall, Bids Farewell To Federico...”

  • avatar

    Aside from customers, GM has legions of people with a stake in the business that can give valuable feedback, they’re called salespeople and service advisors. But of course, GM dismisses their comments… “How could they know what our customer’s feel and want?” generic GM Executive #598 said, “We at the top of the RenCen know better.” All GM execs should have their free new car, all day every day, revoked, and be forced to go to dealers just like everyone else. And not only that, they should pay the equivalent ‘percentage to their salary’ for the new car purchase and repairs as the average customer. Example: Mary Barra is forced to buy a Sonic for $1 million. The GM execs should feel the sting of fixing their mistakes and the dread of the next problem. Oh my, but that, such reality, would be so much of a distraction from playing the GM Career Game.

  • avatar

    …and if it looks like a customer is going to complain, the survey will accidently get delivered to the wrong address.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in my dealership days the customers were heavily coached by service writers to return “completely satisfied” or whatever the latest best score was. It was part of the exit process when a customer picked up their car. Follow up phone calls involved asking something along the lines of “will you be able to provide completely satisfied on the survey you might receive regarding your recent dealership visit?”. If the response was no, then bribery ensued with “what can I do for you to help you return a completely satisfied score?” It was a total sell job as individual bonuses depended on those scores. I couldn’t fault them, they had to play by the rules implemented from above; but I always questioned the value of the survey data considering how much bias existed in its collection.

      • 0 avatar

        Just to play devil’s advocate for a second, would you rather they go “AW shucks, that costumer was not satisfied, better luck next time!”, or ask the customer why they were dissatisfied so that they can improve the experience for the future? One of the central pillars of a dealership should be making sure the customer is happy. If they weren’t happy in the car buying process, but become happy because they’re offered a couple free oil changes as restitution, is that so bad?

        • 0 avatar

          I can only speak to the service side. A customer was typically unsatisfied because the product was utter garbage (Contour/Mystique, 3.8l head gaskets for example). This was already known, no survey was needed to gather this information. The process was gamed to achieve high customer satisfaction scores which led to bonus payments from the manufacturer. Skewing the data to get high scores distorts the goal of the survey (we’re all equally above average!). Service satisfaction is tied to some fairly simple things:

          Reasonable write up time
          Clean/comfortable waiting area
          Shuttle service
          Fix it right/on time/fair price

          The service writer is critical to this as he/she is the link between the customer and the tech. Accurate and timely communication (in both directions) is key to attaining satisfied customers.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m a major GM fan, but this type of behavior is not acceptable.

  • avatar

    It was said by the EIC back in the Toyota recall days that any person posting about recalls of maker X would have to then post a story on every recall for every make and model for that month.

    We’re well past the initial, and important story (and I respected Jack’s direct reply and explanation). Apparently TTAC is going to be reporting every GM recall (well you missed the Saturn Aura recall for bad shifter cables in 4-speed automatics today – but I’m sure another story will cover it).

    The issue of bad computer programming and reflashing of ECMs is pretty darn common place in general (as noted by an earlier story from Jack) and will only become more common (from same story from Jack) due to how code monkeys are compensated and treated. It’s an industry issue.

    If I base observations purely on number of responses, it appears the B&B is getting tired of the steady drum beat that is going on with this topic, as the comment count on these stories is in sharp decline.

  • avatar

    A law firm (or any firm using names) should have no more than four named partners; otherwise, they all look bad.

    Beasley Allen & Partners sounds much better. Plus, it cold be shortened further to BAP!

  • avatar

    It seems very strange that GM has to do a recall for a lousy fuel gauge that could result in people running out of gas without warning, while Ford has no recall for their electric power steering losing boost with no warning. These result in very similar dangers, except that with the Fords the brakes are still ok. Don’t you have some warning, like hesitations, when a vehicle runs out of fuel?

  • avatar

    “Federico led a team of engineers in a 2012 investigation of the out-of-spec switch at the heart of the recall…The engineer, who reported directly to current CEO Mary Barra in 2011 when she was global product development chief…”

    Wait a second! Didn’t Barra tell Congress she had no knowledge of this problem until 1/31/2014? Sounds like someone’s lying. Say it ain’t so!

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