Delphi redesigned the ignition switch for the Cadillac SRX to increase its torque around two months before it had the supplier make similar changes to the Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switch, a Delphi manager said in a letter to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The manager said that the SRX modifications in February 2006 were in response to complaints by General Motors’ test drivers who said that a pre-production version could be accidentally turned off when their knee bumps the ignition switches. A document submitted with the letter shows that GM requested the changes.
A GM engineer signed off in April 2006 the use of a stronger detent plunger in the Cobalt’s ignition switch, which largely resolved an issue wherein the switch could shift into “accessory” mode while the car is moving. This would cut power steering and power brakes and would render airbags unable to deploy in a crash.
GM last week placed Ray DeGiorgio, the engineer who green-lighted the redesign without making it be reflected in company records, on paid leave. The letter from Delphi said the February and April 2006 changes were the only times that Delphi records show that GM requested changes to hike the torque in ignition switches.
The letter also said GM requested Delphi in June 2005 to assess whether low torque or detent force would render the ignition switch on the Cobalt to inadvertently turn off or into “accessory” mode. All three inquiries – all prompted by several reports of cars stalling -- were closed with no action taken except for a bulletin to dealers.
The manager’s letter also shows that Delphi has been supplied since 1999 ignition switches for other six GM nameplates that were not recalled – MY 2004-2012 Chevrolet Malibu, MY 2005-2010 Pontiac G6, MY 2003-2007 Cadillac CTS and MY 2004-2009 SRX, MY 2005-2009 Saab 9-7X and MY 2007-2010 Saturn Aura. The letter also said that Delphi only supplied the switches to GM and its suppliers. [source: Reuters]