GM docs showed engineer stymied over internal ignition switch probe

Article by Andrew Christian, on April 15, 2014

More details came out as to why it took General Motors over a decade to admit faulty ignition switches on its vehicles and issue a recall for that. According to newly released GM records, low-level engineer Brian Stouffer tried to find out why faulty ignition switches were causing cars to stall, but his pursuit was foiled by uncooperative workmates, inaccurate data and different managers.

Stouffer’s bosses on the assignment reshuffled three times in a year, and he himself was baffled since as another engineer had ordered a fix years earlier without having the usual paperwork.

While Stouffer pursue leads over the issue, GM managers were receiving blunt warnings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that they were mismanaging recall probe.

NHTSA sent a 2013 e-mail blasting GM being “too slow to communicate” and “too slow to act.” The e-mail quickly circulated to product executives and top deputies of Mary Barra, who was then GM’s chief product officer. Veteran auto analyst Maryann Keller said that situation was typical GM, where “one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing.”

She added it was also typical GM where matters of importance are sidetracked or dismissed or buried. E-mails chronicling Stouffer’s tale at GM is one the stories contained in documents released last week by a US House committee probing the recall.

GM has said it first became aware of the defects in 2001 in a Saturn Ion and considered it fixed. It said the issue re-occurred in 2003 in Saturn models and in 2005 Cobalts. NHTSA first queried GM in 2007 over the issue. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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