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GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch 307

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-you-didn't-think-you'd-be-in-the-headlines-for-ignoring-an-email dept.
An anonymous reader writes 'Thirteen people have died because of faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. The company has recalled 2.6 million cars, paid a $35 million fine, and set up a fund to compensate the victims. Now, an internal investigation into the incident has shown that the company was aware of the problem since 2002. 15 employees have been fired over what CEO Mary Barra calls "misconduct and incompetence." The report singles out Ray DeGiorgio, an engineer who allegedly approved a part that did not meet specifications and misled coworkers who were investigating complaints. "He actually changed the ignition switch to solve the problem in later model years of the Cobalt, but failed to document it, told no one, and claimed to remember nothing about the change."

"There's no evidence anyone else knew the switch was out-of-spec at the time, the report says; neither did DeGiorgio tell anyone when issues with the part were brought to his attention multiple times. When one engineer specifically asked DeGiorgio in 2004 whether the switch met torque specifications, DeGiorgio didn't respond. Evidence the investigators gathered showed that he started two e-mails but never sent them. ... Instead, DeGiorgio was consumed by a problem in which cars with the switch were failing to start in cold weather, something the report says was "a personal embarrassment to DeGiorgio.'"'
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GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

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  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Informative)

    by Raven42rac (448205) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:17AM (#47179735)
    Sarbanes-Oxley dude.
  • by jbmartin6 (1232050) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:31AM (#47179873)
    Got this from WSJ:

    As expected, the report exonerated the CEO, executives who report directly to her and the company's board of directors. Fifteen employees have been dismissed from GM because of misconduct or failure to respond properly as evidence of the ignition switch's defects mounted, Ms. Barra said. More than half of those officials were executives, and Ms. Barra said five other GM employees have been disciplined but remain with the company. Ms. Barra wouldn't identify the employees by name, except to confirm that two low-ranking engineers involved with the design of the defective switch were dismissed. Also fired were lawyers and officials responsible for safety and dealings with regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:33AM (#47179893)

    I think you're wrong. It has been established that it's indeed faulty firmware:

    http://www.edn.com/design/automotive/4423428/Toyota-s-killer-firmware--Bad-design-and-its-consequences

    Do you work for Toyota? Just asking...

  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:33AM (#47179899) Homepage

    Why did GM write into their bail-out a few years ago the clause that they cannot be held responsible for malfeasance which occurred prior to that bail out?

    Makes me sick thinking about it.

    GM's "bailout" was actually a managed bankruptcy with the terms pre-arranged, and bankruptcy in most US states incldues the discharge of liability, not just debts. It is done that way so creditors can't short-circuit the bankruptcy system and just "Wait to sue" until after you're out of bankruptcy protection.

    This liability discharge is one of the main features of bankruptcy. It is why the company that polluted the Elk River in West Virginia (leaving the 2/3 of the state without safe drinking water--some of them to this day) declared bankruptcy in short order after the incident--they knew they had no possible defense against the legal onslaught that was coming, and their executives (who were owed sizable bonuses--coal executives really rake it in) wanted to make sure they filed for bankruptcy BEFORE anybody filed suit, because if a suit was pending when they filed bankruptcy that party could go to court to stop bonuses and incentive pay owed to executives from being payed out. Because if the company was facing a bankruptcy judge and had an already-filed suit for billions in damages he would never (EVER) approve bonus payments to executives and would probably listen pretty favorably to a creditor who insisted the executives not be able to loot the place ahead of their judgement.

  • by Bacon Bits (926911) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:43AM (#47179977)

    No, I think GP is referring to the $1.2 billion settlement for concealing safety defects [nytimes.com].

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:44AM (#47179995)

    I'm not sure why you assert that Oldham was a liar.

    One of the articles above has this excerpt:

    When one engineer specifically asked DeGiorgio in 2004 whether the switch met torque specifications, DeGiorgio didn’t respond. Evidence the investigators gathered showed that he started two e-mails but never sent them. He also rejected another engineer’s suggestion around the same time that the torque be increased after a Cobalt stalled during a media test-drive event.

    The media test event refers to the Oldham test drive.

    One of the major difficulties in isolating the problem was the ignition switch was changed for 2007 and newer Cobalts but the part number was not changed. So internal investigators could not easily identify the problem. All the investigators knew was something was different about 2006 and older models.

  • by s122604 (1018036) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:53AM (#47180087)
    Eventually... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com]
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:53AM (#47180095) Homepage

    Hearing from someone that got disabled for the rest of their life because of a faulty Toyota vehicle...

    ...is called an anecdote. Some people will do whatever they can to blame someone else, whether or not it's just to do so. Sometimes it's the thing that keeps them going.

  • by umghhh (965931) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:54AM (#47180099)

    I may have missed the whooooosh sound accompanying your sarcasm or you missed this report [safetyresearch.net]. Which one is it?

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Friday June 06, 2014 @10:54AM (#47180101)

    Faulty firmware? Are you referring to the brake debacle a few years ago?

    I think it's been pretty well established by know that it was all media attention driving that and Toyota really didn't have anything wrong with its vehicles.

    First they blamed the drivers.
    Then they blamed the floor mats.
    Then they blamed the drivers again and cried about the mean ol' US media ganging up on a foreign company.
    Then they blamed the brake pedals and offered to "fix it" by installing worse parts.
    Then it was revealed that it was a bug they knew about for ages.

  • by Streetlight (1102081) on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:02AM (#47180225) Journal
    It took quite a lot of time, but the NYT posted the report and I downloaded it and read all the report up to the point it makes recommendations about reorganizing some of GM's administrative structure, which I skimmed. The folks involved in this debacle behaved like they were in a Marx Brothers movie. There's the GM Nod in which committee members all nodded that things would be done and when they left the room did nothing and the the crossed arms pointing which meant the individuals crossed arms pointing to others meaning they weren't going to do anything. There seemed to be hundreds of instances when folks couldn't remember what went on in the multiple meetings about the ignition switch issue. There apparently is an urban legend at GM that became standard operating procedure that notes were not to be taken at meetings as well as minutes. No wonder no one remembered what they were told or said. What's it called, probable deniability?

    Just one situation out of many struck me as showing the engineers' incompetence: At one point it became clear that model year Cobalts after 2007 did not have the problem with the ignition switch where it would move from run to accessory just by brushing the key fob hanging from the inserted key with clothing. A couple of guys, including an intern, went to a junk yard to examine a car that had been involved in some kind of accident. The intern noticed that the ignition switched required very little torque to switch from run to accessory so the group got a fisherman's scale to measure the torque. They then got appropriate torque meters (Snap-on tools has nice ones which I have used) but only looked at the newer cars because they couldn't find any older ones to test. DeGiorgio had asserted there was no change in the switch torque from the initial design, so I'm guessing they just ignored the junk car result. My guess is they could have looked for old cars at used car dealers or car auction lots for testing or even got hold of the Michigan state motor vehicle department to find owners of older Cobalts. GM should also have a database of Cobalt VINs connected to registered owners. And of course, the ultimate incompetence was that no connection was ever made that when an ignition switch moved from run to accessory mode the air bag sensors were disabled and would have solved the mystery of why air bags did not deploy during accidents when the switch was turned.

    This is a very interesting, fascinating and engrossing report and I encourage people to read it. I wonder if it might become required reading for discussion in engineering and law schools.
  • by sconeu (64226) on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:09AM (#47180291) Homepage Journal

    He's not asserting that. He's asserting that GM is calling Oldham a liar by saying that "nobody knew about it", when Oldham had already raised the question.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:12AM (#47180337)

    If he was a licensed PE he had a professional and legal obligation to intervene with the switch, regardless of how he felt about it. If he wasn't a PE, then whomever the PE was that was managing him and approving his designs is to blame.

    In automotive engineering PEs are a rarity. There is no requirement whatsoever that a PE be involved or that one signs off on any designs. You find PEs in civil engineering and some aerospace and a few other fields but most engineering does not require such a certification. There would be a production part approval and there would be an engineer of some sort who would be responsible for the design and production. Most parts in US automotive production require a PPAP document to be completed for both design and production processes. It's usually a pointless waste of time but there is a formality to the process and it does assign responsibilities.

  • Re:Company Culture (Score:5, Informative)

    by TigerTime (626140) on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:19AM (#47180391)

    "More than half of those officials were executives, and Ms. Barra said five other GM employees have been disciplined but remain with the company. Ms. Barra wouldn't identify the employees by name, except to confirm that two low-ranking engineers involved with the design of the defective switch were dismissed. Also fired were lawyers and officials responsible for safety and dealings with regulators"

    Do you know what you're talking about?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:33AM (#47180531)

    Freaking idiots. It was even on Slashdot! You "can't lookup stuff on the Internet" anymore??

    http://tech-beta.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]


    Toyota's Killer Firmware

    "On Thursday, a jury verdict found Toyota's ECU firmware defective, holding it responsible for a crash in which a passenger was killed and the driver injured. What's significant about this is that it's the first time a jury heard about software defects uncovered by a plaintiff's expert witnesses. A summary of the defects discussed at trial is interesting reading, as well the transcript of court testimony. 'Although Toyota had performed a stack analysis, Barr concluded the automaker had completely botched it. Toyota missed some of the calls made via pointer, missed stack usage by library and assembly functions (about 350 in total), and missed RTOS use during task switching. They also failed to perform run-time stack monitoring.' Anyone wonder what the impact will be on self-driving cars?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @11:56AM (#47180803)

    I've heard NOTHING that leads me to believe me to believe that these cases of "uncontrolled acceleration" were anything of the sort.

    Then you must be an all knowing expert. Oh wait...

    http://embeddedgurus.com/barr-... [embeddedgurus.com]

    So a tree falls in the forest but you can't hear it, then it must have never been growing there in a first place!

  • by devman (1163205) on Friday June 06, 2014 @12:48PM (#47181249)
    A little background research show lawsuits were filed on Jan 10, one day after the event, Freedom Industries did not file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy until Jan 17. Really it is more about the limited liability of the company stake holders and officers than bankruptcy law that is upsetting.

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