Recall fallout: General Motors places two engineers on paid leave

Facing increasing pressure to to act decisively, GM CEO Mary Barra suspended two employees involved with faulty ignition switch.
By Ananth Baliga  |  April 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM
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DETROIT, April 10 (UPI) -- General Motors said Thursday it has suspended two engineers for their involvement with the company's failure to recall faulty ignition switches.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said that engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman had been put on paid leave following a briefing from Anton R. Valukas, a former United States attorney, tasked by the company to carry out an internal investigation into the recall debacle.

“This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened,” Barra said in a statement. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for G.M.”

DeGiorgio and Altman came to the fore after their names came up during last week's congressional hearing in which Barra said it appeared that DeGiorgio had lied under oath when testifying in a 2013 case brought by a family of a crash victim. Altman was a engineering manager on the Cobalt, one of the cars included in the 2.6 million-vehicle recall.

In 2006, DeGiorgio approved an improvement to the spring in the ignition switch making it more robust and authorized its production without the relevant documentation. The improved ignition switches were installed in 2007 model cars, but at the time the company did not recall vehicles with the faulty switch.

Other evidence, obtained by House investigators, shows that GM launched an engineer inquiry about the Cobalt ignition switch in November 2004 after customers complained the engine “can be keyed off with knee while driving.” But four months later, the Cobalt program engineering manager rejected a change, citing parts costs and long lead times.

Federal and congressional investigators have been investigating why G.M. took so long to fix a safety issue that it first learned of in 2001.

[Bloomberg Businessweek] [The New York Times]

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