GM engineer claims forgetting about changing ignition switch design

Article by Andrew Christian, on June 3, 2014

General Motors engineer Ray DeGiorgio has told congressional probers the he forgot approving a modification in ignition switch design in 2006 without changing the part number or pressing for a callback, according to a report by The New York Times. DeGiorgio is one of two GM employees who have been suspended with pay since April 10 while the carmaker conducted an internal probe.

A congressional aide told the Times that DeGiorgio appeared "very emotional at times" during questioning and "genuinely upset" that the issue has been tied to at least 13 deaths. On May 19, DeGiorgio told the investigators that he never knew that the issue would make airbags to fail to deploy during in a crash, an incident that GM has said has occurred 47 times so far.

"He came across as if he was just overburdened and just missed it," the staff member was quoted by the newspaper as saying. GM has issued a global recall of 2.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches, which could shift out of the "run" position.

Once that happens, airbags, power steering and power brake assist could fail to operate or deploy. In a deposition in April 2013, DeGiorgio said he did not authorize the modification to the ignition switch.

However, documents GM obtained from Delphi Automotive in October 2013 show that DeGiorgio signed off on a longer spring and detent plunger to render the switch less flimsy, and a new printed circuit board to resolve an electrical issue.

This has prompted several members of the US Congress to say that DeGiorgio lied under oath. GM chief executive Mary Barra acknowledged that the evidence pointed to DeGiorgio lying, but remarked that she was waiting for the results of an internal probe, which could be released as soon as next week.

While DeGiorgio told the congressional probers that he had already forgotten about the modification by the time of the deposition, he failed to tell why he approved it without having GM assign a new part number, which according to Barra is tantamount to a violation of GM protocol and lead to delayed detection of the issue. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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