Can General Motors Recover?
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General Motors designs, manufactures, and markets cars, crossovers, trucks, and automobile parts worldwide. The company markets its vehicles primarily under the Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Opel, Holden, and Vauxhall brand names, as well as under the Alpheon, Jiefang, Baojun, and Wuling brand names. It sells cars and trucks to dealers for consumer retail sales, as well as to fleet customers in daily rental car companies, commercial fleet customers, leasing companies, and governments.
Two engineers who reportedly were responsible for “fateful calls” in the ongoing ignition switch fiasco have been placed on paid leave by General Motors, Bloomberg reports. Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman played a significant role in what has now blown up into a federal investigation spanning several agencies, and the two are suspended with pay until the matters are settled. GM’s now-infamous 2.59 million small car recall has been directly attributed to at least 13 deaths and numerous accidents. Any extraneous weight on the keyring can cause the ignition switch to shift off or into accessory mode, thereby disabling the power brakes, power steering, and the airbags while the car is still moving, all because of a component smaller than a dime that didn’t live up to General Motors’ internal specifications — but was installed anyways.
Altman, Bloomberg says, led the engineering team that worked on the Chevrolet Cobalt, one of the affected cars, and rejected a fix because it was too expensive and would take too long, internal documents indicated. DeGiorgio, meanwhile, was the head of the team that designed the faulty switch. “In 2006, after car columnists and customers complained about the switch, DeGiorgio quietly greenlighted an improvement that others at GM didn’t learn about for more than six years,” Bloomberg reports. “Last year, he denied under oath that he knew the part had been changed.” DeGiorgio and Altman are now the lighting rods for the ire from the panel investigating why it took the company so long to issue a recall. DeGiorgio was part of a “culture of coverup that allowed an engineer at General Motors to lie under oath” and that continued in recent months, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, told CEO Mary Barra during an April 2 Senate hearing. “I for the life of me can’t understand why he still has his job.”