By on November 17, 2014

Raymond DiGiorgio

Since being dismissed from General Motors in June of 2014, the engineer cited by the Valukas report as the main culprit behind what would lead to the February 2014 ignition switch recall crisis had been in seclusion. Until now.

The New York Times recently interviewed Raymond DeGiorgio outside his suburban Detroit home. When asked about the switch and the deaths and injuries linked to it, DeGiorgio proclaimed that he was just doing his job, doing what he was supposed to do, and that he did the best that he could.

An executive working at one of GM’s suppliers said the engineer was part of “the frozen middle” inside the automaker’s technical center in Warren, Mich., a culture which kept to itself, focused on the jobs before it, and prevented others from entering.

DeGiorgio’s tribulations began in 2001, when he was tasked with choosing a switch from two proposed. The one chosen required less force to turn the key, to the detriment of the switch’s overall quality. He would spend the next few years trying to have the switch improved, ending with a rejected request in September 2005 for a new switch meant for an upcoming GM product. A few months later in May 2006, DeGiorgio would make the fateful decision to have supplier Delphi replace the switch with the version he passed over, failing to change the part number associated in so doing.

Before corporate investigators in 2009 and 2012, and in a 2013 deposition, the engineer claimed he did not authorize a change in the ignition switch, though he did admit to seeing the difference between the two in the aforementioned deposition. The downward spiral for both DeGiorgio and GM soon followed.

Amid multiple legal threats, including criminal and perjury charges, he still holds the line that he did nothing wrong, that he and his name were “trashed” and “crucified” before the public. He added that the some of the various pieces written of him and his time at GM were “fiction,” but when asked for clarification, DeGiorgio ended the interview with the following:

I could write a book just about the switch. Maybe someday I will.

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40 Comments on “DeGiorgio: ‘I Did What I Was Supposed To Do’...”


  • avatar
    bryanska

    Tom Silva really ought to know better.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “failing to change the part number associated in so doing”

    Usually, when a component’s form, fit, or function do not change, you don’t change the part number. Mfrs don’t change part numbers for every improvement, because doing so is costly, time-consuming, and often unnecessary.

    The ‘death tally’ hadn’t begun in 2006, so armchair engineering from the future is easy.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Really? I know from owning VWs for years that they love to make incremental changes to part numbers. For example, the MAF from older TDIs, which have been revised several times and each time either a letter was suffixed or a change in the first 3 digits of the part number was made to tell people which part they were getting. So it can’t be all that difficult to do to in order to differentiate between a good and bad part.

      Seems to me that GM is just an incredibly lazy bloated company that didn’t want to go to the trouble of making it easy to tell what was what.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      The new switch fit the same applications as the old, so the part number did not have to change. However, you could not produce the part to the new design using the old drawing. Therefore at a minimum there should have been a new revision letter attached; there should have been some means to distinguish the old design from the new one.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Being from Canada, I thought we might be safe from the comment eating monster lurking at Vertical Scope…I guess not…Eh??

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        This. DeGiorgio also must not know what a god damned DFMEA is. Maybe he doesn’t know CC’s and SC’s are or what RPN’s are? He knew of the risks of the design that he owned as he was aware of test vehicles that had the same key off failure mode prior to the recall. Not rolling a part number with that knowledge (knowing he was reducing his RPN’s) refutes SCE to AUX’s point. Design intent was changed. The print changed. The part number should roll.

        If he writes a book and profits, I hope he goes to jail as he is being a douchebag. That or he really is that dumb.

        Edit: at the very least, own up to the mistake. I have owned up to stop ships and all sorts of hell because I wasn’t aware of a failure mode. The fact that I got to the point of shutting down a plant means I wasn’t afraid of doing the right thing no matter the consequences.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          Clearly, his UAAs obfuscated the RTM of his communication. When TTAC BPR attempt to enlighten the BnBs with their CHI, AWA those who post AI, ETC tend to CTH out of the ROH. Now I’m going to EMD and HSD before IMSAs.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @jpolicke: Correct.

        The question then becomes a matter of inventory control. Some companies (like mine) are not adept at exhausting old revisions of the same part number, which means new & old parts can become mixed on the shelf.

        If the engineer is aware of this, creating a new P/N can avert this shortcoming and then the old P/N can be scrapped (costly) or exhausted to zero (time-consuming).

        I think we now know that GM doesn’t have good inventory control for items whose revisions have bumped up.

        In hindsight, a new P/N was called for, and likely several layers of management would have to approve the scrappage of the old stuff. But if someone upstairs is pinching pennies, this becomes difficult to accomplish.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          You can do running changes all day long of any part number. It happens all the time in automotive. All you have to do is time the change and alert the manufacturing site (final assembly) of when you will ship the new part # into the facility. They are timed out usually in accordance to other part level bumps. They can be called Job 2, 3, etc. Coordinated events can contain as little as 60 parts to thousands of parts. I’ve participated in a rev level bump that wasn’t even coordinated via program management – the engineers on site at the assembly plant called for it, timed it and managed the design and release of the new part. Ford, Chrysler and GM all do this. The fact of the matter lies with the knowledge that DeGiorgio contained. This was intentional and if it wasn’t, DeGiorgio doesn’t know how to perform his job. Simple as that.

          • 0 avatar
            mr_min

            Tresmonos, I don’t want to defend DeGiorgio, nor to I disagree about what “should” happen. I can only say, don’t assume what works well and is easy to control at Ford works well at GM.

            I also don’t believe a single engineer can ever operate in isolation in large organisation like GM.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          >and likely several layers of management would have to approve the scrappage of the old stuff. But if someone upstairs is pinching pennies, this becomes difficult to accomplish.

          From the outside looking in, it appears this might have something to do with it. It seems as if he was aware of the need for a design change, but found it difficult to get it done through normal channels so he circumvented them by not changing the part number when the part was updated.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            I would rather not touch it. Not only did her circumvent what he may thought as ‘red tape,’ but he circumvented many quality processes that would have alerted other parts of the organization the reason behind the design change.

            I don’t believe he was this close minded. Maybe he did act in good faith, just didn’t realize the consequences?

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            That’s the line we sometimes walk in making desisions in this line of work. In DeGiorgio’s case, the sh1t just really hit the fan. He should have taken the long route and pushed the big boulder up the steep hill, as I refer to it, and gotten it done the right way.

            I try and think of guys like Ray DeGiorgio and Dennis Gioia whenever I’m faced with similar situations.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            @danio3834:

            I remember guys like this:

            “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Boisjoly”

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            *thumbs up*

          • 0 avatar
            Athos Nobile

            @SCE to AUX

            That link is gold.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Part numbers definitely change when there’s an “update” part, OEMs and dealers can profit from, when out of warranty.

      This was a safety related, defective part “update”, that GM could only lose with. Otherwise there’s absolutely zero reason to not change to an updated part number.

      OEM (transmission) sun gears, planetaries and other hard part “updates” are especially crazy expensive, just over-the-counter and wholesale. Nevermind if the dealer installs them.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      Wrong. The part number seen by the servicing or P&A guys will not change if the part is a direct substitute, but the engineering part number will change when the drawing is substantially revised. Typically the part number has a 2 letter suffix, -AB would be a revised version of -AA, but still be compatible with it while -BA would be issued as a different part to the service guys.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I don’t know about this case. However 36 years as an hourly worker tells me the guys story, has some merit.

    I once put a suggestion in. A very ,very, simple, and easy to implement suggestion. At the time my suggestion would have saved GM hundreds of dollars, in shipping costs, daily. For over 10 years, I did the paper work for every load, that went in and out, of my dock. So I did know what I was talking about. My suggestion went through, the lower levels of management. My shift manager at the time, came to see me at the dock. He wanted to see for himself, if my suggestion had merit. He shook his head, and said “Mikey I can’t believe we missed this, thanks, you got yourself a winner” My suggestion was pushed up to the next level.
    I waited, and waited. By late 2007 the fit really hit the shan. On the salary side of the house, people were bailing out. Early reirements, job changes, GM lost a lot of good, smart, and well educated people. A whole lot of experience went out the door.
    Finally after years of zero accountability, GM was dumping the incompetents and the dead wood.

    My suggestion was dumped, by one of the most useless, over promoted, vindictive, and incompetent managers, I have ever encountered. They give me some corporate speak B.S.

    I found out the real reason why, over a couple of beers, years after I retired.
    The problem with my suggestion, was that it was just too simple. Paying me, would have brought to light just how incompetent, this particular member of management, and his/her team was.

    Raymond De should write a book

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Maybe it was rejected due to your inappropriate use of commas?

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @319583076….inappropriate use of commas…seriously ? How about my lousy grammar, and sentence structure? I’ve been posting comments at TTAC since the beginning. Hundreds of comments. Punctuation, spelling, proper paragraphs, you name it, I’ve screwed it up.

        I’ve been called a Commie, GM troll, union thug, lazy, beer guzzling auto worker. Oh yeah I forgot about leech, parasite. It was once suggested that I would feel better if I moved to Cuba.

        So Cheese burger You take the award, for being the first time, ever someone has accused me of inappropriate commas.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Really, 319583076? I call unnecessary roughness.

      • 0 avatar

        I must defend the honor of a fine, upstanding punctuation mark, the comma. We have a generation of folks who are pathologically afraid of commas. There are people who think that anything long and complicated, with more than a couple of commas and conjunctions, is a run on sentence.

        I’ve had the pleasure of having people who don’t know what an independent clause is tell me that if it has more more than two commas, it’s a run on sentence.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        “Maybe it was rejected due to your inappropriate use of commas?”

        ^^^ The things we have to read in this site. *facepalm*

    • 0 avatar
      jetcal1

      Mikey,
      Be careful lest you be labeled as an un-American “comma-nist”.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    So… we are to believe Ray was the lone engineer who acted alone?

    He’d better be on the lookout for Jack Ruby.

    • 0 avatar
      John Marks

      I thought I had the monopoly on JFK Assassination references.

      But thanks for saving me the trouble.

      I heard a story that the Dallas Police took Jack in for a physical and put him in front of the chest X-Ray setup and told the doctor to go get some coffee, and they let Jack get good and irradiated.

      He did die of lung cancer, but that story might have been just ex-post-facto made-up cop bravado.

      I think that Dallas, November 1963 is the Rosetta Stone of modern US history.

      Roger Stone’s book is required reading, I think.

      jm

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    This [email protected] is par for the course nowadays.

    Maybe he thought that since he couldn’t receive permission to upgrade the switch, he could sneak the fix “under the radar” and keep it listed under the old part #.

    He might have saved some lives actually.

    With the out sourcing of supply-chain and the remoteness of the buyer (GM often uses the same buyer reps as Xerox in India) it’s almost impossible to change anything. GM is not unique, I can name a hundred companies that I deal with regularly that have the same messed up culture.

    I had a military customer last week who tried to order 5,000+ units of an obsolete (out of stock) part despite the fact that we have a qualified more reliable alternative in stock. If we just stamped the old part number on the new part it would be no questions asked I would bet.

    The left hand has no clue what the right is doing, in this case we received half a dozen requests for these in a matter of hours.

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      Unlikely but possible. The draughtie, the draughtie’s checker, their supervisor and the releasing section would all have to be in on it, as if it is a new drawing with an old part number all their tracking systems would need to be manually evaded.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Legacy automakers suck because culture. When you couple management incompetence with labor intransigence, you get this.

  • avatar

    Mr DiGiogio’s mustache, on the other hand, claimed he had nothing to do with any ignition switch, and then promptly ran out of the room, grabbing some girl’s butt on the way out.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    In any large organization, when the sh*t hits the fan, there’s a search for the guilty party, AKA scapegoat. In an organization as big as GM, with sh*t hitting thousands of fans, how can you claim just one monkey threw it?

  • avatar
    insideinsights

    I work in automotive R&D. I’m not an engineer, I just work with them. DeGorgio could be one of them. Upon a mistake, some of my colleagues would also respond with “I did what I was supposed to!”, which might as well be “I did nothing wrong!”. And they really mean it. It must be some mental condition like Asperger or something. Infantile ignorant incompetence is bliss for some. Unfortunately there are too many people like this at work, not getting purged. And sometimes, they get promoted into a position of great responsibility. Ever heard of the Peter principle?

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