GM manager testifies that ex-employee stole information on hybrid tech

Article by Anita Panait, on November 22, 2012

Peter Savagian, a manager at General Motors, testified in court that former GM engineer Shanshan Du took confidential hybrid vehicle information that could reduce the carmaker’s competitive advantages if revealed to other companies. Du, who joined GM in 2000 as an engineer for GM's Advanced Technology Vehicles Group, is accused of copying over 16,000 documents concerning hybrid vehicles after she was offered a severance agreement in January 2005.

On Aug. 30, 2005, an external hard drive containing the documents was discovered in the bag of Du’s husband, Yu Qin, at his job at Controlled Power Co. Controlled Power had sacked Qin that day for operating a side company, Millennium Technology International Inc. 

Controlled Power then turned the hard drive over to GM to analyze. Qin and Du are facing charges of stealing GM hybrid technology for a business venture to produce a hybrid electric vehicle in China with Chery Automobile Co. Savagian told the court that a sensitive source code critical to hybrid vehicles was found on Qin's Controlled Power laptop.

The source code, which was developed between 1994 and 2004, ensures that hybrid vehicles run as smoothly as possible. To show that the source code was sensitive information, the prosecution asked Savagian if Toyota or Ford have ever published code relating to their hybrid offerings. Savagian then replied "no." Savagian told the court that he is GM's engineering director for electrification architecture. Du’s copied documents also include schematics of engine components like inverter technology. According to Savagian, sharing this information with other companies could benefit GM's rivals.

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