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GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the bet-you-didn't-think-you'd-be-in-the-headlines-for-ignoring-an-email dept.

Transportation 307

An anonymous reader writes 'Thirteen people have died because of faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. The company has recalled 2.6 million cars, paid a $35 million fine, and set up a fund to compensate the victims. Now, an internal investigation into the incident has shown that the company was aware of the problem since 2002. 15 employees have been fired over what CEO Mary Barra calls "misconduct and incompetence." The report singles out Ray DeGiorgio, an engineer who allegedly approved a part that did not meet specifications and misled coworkers who were investigating complaints. "He actually changed the ignition switch to solve the problem in later model years of the Cobalt, but failed to document it, told no one, and claimed to remember nothing about the change."

"There's no evidence anyone else knew the switch was out-of-spec at the time, the report says; neither did DeGiorgio tell anyone when issues with the part were brought to his attention multiple times. When one engineer specifically asked DeGiorgio in 2004 whether the switch met torque specifications, DeGiorgio didn't respond. Evidence the investigators gathered showed that he started two e-mails but never sent them. ... Instead, DeGiorgio was consumed by a problem in which cars with the switch were failing to start in cold weather, something the report says was "a personal embarrassment to DeGiorgio.'"'

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No one will ever buy a GM product again (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179639)

This may not be a conspiracy, but it is an indication of a systemic, cultural failure endemic to the company.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179729)

I don't know. Toyota had faulty firmware that killed people, and yet everyone is still flocking to buy their cheap cars.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (0, Troll)

myoparo (933550) | about 4 months ago | (#47179765)

Faulty firmware? Are you referring to the brake debacle a few years ago?

I think it's been pretty well established by know that it was all media attention driving that and Toyota really didn't have anything wrong with its vehicles.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179863)

Hearing from someone that got disabled for the rest of their life because of a faulty Toyota vehicle, I tend to disagree. Toyota tried to cover up what happened repeatedly by claiming it was the mat, the brake pedal.. Anything but the real cause. Those who can no longer live the way they used to got $125 from Toyota as a sign of "good will". Yeah, sure, it wasn't firmwareâ¦

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179963)

Hearing from someone that got disabled for the rest of their life because of driver incompetence...

Fixed that for you.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (5, Informative)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 4 months ago | (#47180095)

Hearing from someone that got disabled for the rest of their life because of a faulty Toyota vehicle...

...is called an anecdote. Some people will do whatever they can to blame someone else, whether or not it's just to do so. Sometimes it's the thing that keeps them going.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180367)

Sorry, but that person is a shitty driver. There was nothing wrong with Toyota vehicles that a competent driver would have had an issue with. Eeven the cop who killed himself and his family didn't even know how to turn off the car!

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179893)

I think you're wrong. It has been established that it's indeed faulty firmware:

http://www.edn.com/design/automotive/4423428/Toyota-s-killer-firmware--Bad-design-and-its-consequences

Do you work for Toyota? Just asking...

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180139)

Court systems cannot establish causes of engineering problems.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (4, Informative)

umghhh (965931) | about 4 months ago | (#47180099)

I may have missed the whooooosh sound accompanying your sarcasm or you missed this report [safetyresearch.net] . Which one is it?

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (5, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#47180101)

Faulty firmware? Are you referring to the brake debacle a few years ago?

I think it's been pretty well established by know that it was all media attention driving that and Toyota really didn't have anything wrong with its vehicles.

First they blamed the drivers.
Then they blamed the floor mats.
Then they blamed the drivers again and cried about the mean ol' US media ganging up on a foreign company.
Then they blamed the brake pedals and offered to "fix it" by installing worse parts.
Then it was revealed that it was a bug they knew about for ages.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180307)

Then it was revealed that it was a bug they knew about for ages.

The drivers

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 4 months ago | (#47179847)

Toyota had a long history of producing reliable and relatively cheap to run vehicles, which was a good enough reason for many people to buy them. GM... doesn't.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (2)

Bengie (1121981) | about 4 months ago | (#47179853)

At least Toyota took is seriously and eventually paid NASA to look over their system. GM just tried to ignore the issue and cover it up.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179877)

Toyota didn't cover up that issue for 10 years.

When your product has safety problems, but you take ownership of those problems and fix them expeditiously, customers will come flocking. So long as your products aren't constantly broken.

Toyota fixed those cars pretty quickly and as such I feel confident they give at least more of a shit than GM.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180047)

toyota allowed a man to go to prision for several years rather than admit the truth about a defect. if you think toyota didn't do everything to cover this up your kidding yourself.

http://reason.com/blog/2010/02/22/man-got-eight-years-for-deaths

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 4 months ago | (#47179919)

Toyota had runaway acceleration and tried to first blame it on the floor mat. That lead to hundreds of thousands being recalled for accelerator refits. I think it was firmware that got the final blame. BTW Why didn't these people turn off the ignition of the car? And Toyotas aren't cheap cars. Cheaply made...maybe.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180119)

Because you lose power steering and braking, and you could lock the fucking steering column.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180369)

Nope. One turn of the key unlocks the column, and there is enough residual power left in the brakes to stop safely. Power steering is lost, yes, but why are you steering if you're shitting yourself, trying to stop?

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

AceofSpades19 (1107875) | about 4 months ago | (#47180421)

I think its a better alternative than accelerating through an intersection on a red light. You could even turn it so the steering is unlocked but the engine is off, or even put it into neutral then you would keep everything.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (4, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#47180341)

Why didn't these people turn off the ignition of the car?

Two reasons that I've heard that make sense are first that it's difficult enough to try to control an out-of-control car with two hands, and second, that since many cars now don't have good old fashioned ignition keys, it may not be possible to turn off the car if the car won't cooperate.

Re: No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

AvitarX (172628) | about 4 months ago | (#47180365)

They didn't turn of the ignition because they didn't know how, do to the fact they purchased a $20k+ device and didn't read the manual.

To kill the ignition hold for three seconds I think (don't own one).

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179739)

Having previously owned a GM car, I was not likely to consider another. No car company is free from fault, but none have done as well as GM in parlaying their faults into general dislike and distrust.

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179745)

You have to read it and accept it as 50/50. It is possible engineers fouled up, but it is also possible that GM is just doing anything at this point to fight off media/press/political scrutiny.

That would all depend on what kind of retirement benefits or severance package the fired employees got, if they got one at all.

And you have engineers that are just arrogant, you need look no further to /. to see wide spread arrogance from engineers.

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179927)

What a totally delusional statement to make. Of course people will still buy GM cars. Maybe you should talk to a psychiatrist, because your ability to assess situations has obviously been compromised.

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 4 months ago | (#47180111)

But I see little to indicate that other car manufacturers have more trustworthy cultures. In a world where an automotive engineer will sell his soul for a nickel on a car that retails for over twenty-thousand dollars (in the words of a close friend who is an automotive engineer), you can't trust a car company not to kick the can down the road so they can make their quarterly profit projections.

Nor should we have to trust them. There needs to be someone else, someone for whom the immediate effect on the company's bottom line is not paramount, keeping watch over the company's safety practices.

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (0)

stenvar (2789879) | about 4 months ago | (#47180221)

Nobody has to buy GM products. They'll just get one bailout after another, from Republicans and Democrats alike, because neither wants to have to deal with the wrath of unions and special interest groups.

Re:No one will ever buy a GM product again (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 4 months ago | (#47180275)

They won't? So care to explain the dozens of newly purchased GM vehicles I saw on the road this morning?

Culpability at the Top (2)

Oysterville (2944937) | about 4 months ago | (#47179669)

Why did GM write into their bail-out a few years ago the clause that they cannot be held responsible for malfeasance which occurred prior to that bail out?

Makes me sick thinking about it.

Re:Culpability at the Top (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47179705)

Why did GM write into their bail-out a few years ago the clause that they cannot be held responsible for malfeasance which occurred prior to that bail out?

Makes me sick thinking about it.

Irrelevant of if they knew about it... if it were you, wouldn't you make such a term if you could get the signers to agree to it?

Re:Culpability at the Top (0)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#47180059)

Because the old GM is gone. The shareholders and management switched. It's a new company with the same name and it doesn't deserve to be liable for the past company.

It is NOT a new company (5, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47180253)

Because the old GM is gone. The shareholders and management switched. It's a new company with the same name and it doesn't deserve to be liable for the past company.

"Doesn't deserve"? Gotta disagree with you there. Sure the company technically is incorporated as a "new" company and some (but not even close to all) of the management has changed but fundamentally it is still the same company. You are giving them a pass based on some legal technicalities which they do not deserve. In all practical terms it is the same company, selling the same products, under the same name, with mostly the same employees and the same facilities.

I run a company that supplies parts to GM. (we're a Tier 3 supplier) I honestly doubt there was much if any cover up. Frankly in my experience GM is too incompetent for that. I see their engineers do stuff all the time that is borderline retarded and the company is so large it's hard to even find a person responsible for a specific issue, much less hold them accountable. While I can't say for certain either way, I tend to think the cause of this fiasco is more structural than criminal. I think this is probably a case of incompetence of such a degree that it appears as malfeasance.

Re:Culpability at the Top (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179733)

So that the huge quantity of bailout cash would not be the target of lawyers. GM would have needed another bailout once the lawyers were through their first round of litigation...

Re:Culpability at the Top (5, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 4 months ago | (#47179749)

While I've seen some engineers do bad things because they were afraid of management, I've never seen a situation in a company this size where the organization was good but one bad engineer was able to release something terrible with no oversight. This is almost by definition of what it means to be a good organization: you shoudl not place tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of responsibility onto your wage slave, no matter how senior he is (never mind that real physical injury may be involved).

It's always, always been bad management, frequently that went straight to the top. But then with most American car dealers we already know that. I find it amusing that they blame the unions all the time, but my two "Japanese" cars, both manufactured in America, have been excellent and are still running flawlessly 9 years later, while my two "American" cars (made in Mexico) I was happy to be rid of at 5 years.

Re:Culpability at the Top (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about 4 months ago | (#47179763)

Sorry I meant car manufacturers, not dealers. I live in Texas I have a whole other hatred of car dealers.

Re:Culpability at the Top (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179901)

This case reminds me of that movie in which a failed product launch causes Alec Baldwin's company to lose almost a billion dollars, so Baldwin makes Orlando Bloom give an interview to a journalist in which he explains that he was the project leader and accepts full responsibility for the SNAFU.

Re:Culpability at the Top (2, Insightful)

Bodero (136806) | about 4 months ago | (#47180037)

This is almost by definition of what it means to be a good organization: you shoudl not place tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of responsibility onto your wage slave, no matter how senior he is

Well, first of all, using the loaded term "wage slave" outs your biases, but whatever. I don't consider a salaried engineer a "wage slave," but maybe your definition includes anyone at all with a boss.

Second, this was an ignition switch. One part out of tens of thousands. Should the CEO be signing off on every single part that goes into every one of their vehicles? That's ridiculous. A large organization requires some level of delegation, and it's reasonable to expect an engineer at DeGiorgio's level to be able to sign off on a part like this and vouch for its compliance, which he did not.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180041)

In a hierarchy of authority (which is exactly what every business is), each sequential manager from the "deviant" upwards is MORE responsible than the preceding one, not less, right up to the CEO. This means that the CEO is ultimately most responsible. As long as the hierarchy is intact (which it was in this case, as far as I can tell), the chain of responsibility stands.

Therefore it is despicable for a CEO to play the public relations blame game as this one has. A CEO worthy of respect would have simply stated that "the individuals directly responsible for this issue have been fired", and spent the rest of the time apologizing on behalf of themselves, rather than manufacturing a "PR case" for why the subordinates are entirely to blame, and the upper management did nothing wrong.

Re:Agreed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180209)

Therefore it is despicable for a CEO to play the public relations blame game as this one has. A CEO worthy of respect would have simply stated that "the individuals directly responsible for this issue have been fired", and spent the rest of the time apologizing on behalf of themselves, rather than manufacturing a "PR case" for why the subordinates are entirely to blame, and the upper management did nothing wrong.

What do you expect when a possibly menopausal woman is the CEO?

Re:Culpability at the Top (4, Informative)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 4 months ago | (#47179899)

Why did GM write into their bail-out a few years ago the clause that they cannot be held responsible for malfeasance which occurred prior to that bail out?

Makes me sick thinking about it.

GM's "bailout" was actually a managed bankruptcy with the terms pre-arranged, and bankruptcy in most US states incldues the discharge of liability, not just debts. It is done that way so creditors can't short-circuit the bankruptcy system and just "Wait to sue" until after you're out of bankruptcy protection.

This liability discharge is one of the main features of bankruptcy. It is why the company that polluted the Elk River in West Virginia (leaving the 2/3 of the state without safe drinking water--some of them to this day) declared bankruptcy in short order after the incident--they knew they had no possible defense against the legal onslaught that was coming, and their executives (who were owed sizable bonuses--coal executives really rake it in) wanted to make sure they filed for bankruptcy BEFORE anybody filed suit, because if a suit was pending when they filed bankruptcy that party could go to court to stop bonuses and incentive pay owed to executives from being payed out. Because if the company was facing a bankruptcy judge and had an already-filed suit for billions in damages he would never (EVER) approve bonus payments to executives and would probably listen pretty favorably to a creditor who insisted the executives not be able to loot the place ahead of their judgement.

What about newer vehicles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179671)

I leased a 2012 GMC Terrain and it takes pushing the key into the ignition VERY firmly just to get the card to turn over. I'm afraid if it goes slack in the slightest while driving the car will turn off. I think this problem goes way beyond the past, and they need to account for the present too.

Heartsplode (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179679)

Did this guy code for OpenSSL in his spare time?

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179691)

They keep deleted drafts in their journal mailbox for all of those years? That would take some serious storage.

Re:Wow (1, Informative)

Raven42rac (448205) | about 4 months ago | (#47179735)

Sarbanes-Oxley dude.

Straight out of Dilbert... (1)

theodp (442580) | about 4 months ago | (#47179713)

...but very dark.

How many were fired who made the crucial decisions (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 4 months ago | (#47179719)

And how many were fired believing that doing the dumb stuff their superiors told them to do would let them avoid being sacrificial goats because higher chains of command would take responsibility? Suppose I should RTFA...

Re:How many were fired who made the crucial decisi (1)

Keyboard Rage (3448471) | about 4 months ago | (#47180299)

Without reading the article (as is usual on /.) I do hope they also fired the manager who was supposed to, you know, manage the guy.

If not, expect a repetition in 3, 2, 1, 0 years.

So no managers were at fault? Just engineers? (4, Insightful)

Squidlips (1206004) | about 4 months ago | (#47179755)

Of course.

Re:So no managers were at fault? Just engineers? (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 4 months ago | (#47179803)

I didn't see any mention of who the other 14 fired individuals were.

Re:So no managers were at fault? Just engineers? (5, Informative)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 4 months ago | (#47179873)

Got this from WSJ:

As expected, the report exonerated the CEO, executives who report directly to her and the company's board of directors. Fifteen employees have been dismissed from GM because of misconduct or failure to respond properly as evidence of the ignition switch's defects mounted, Ms. Barra said. More than half of those officials were executives, and Ms. Barra said five other GM employees have been disciplined but remain with the company. Ms. Barra wouldn't identify the employees by name, except to confirm that two low-ranking engineers involved with the design of the defective switch were dismissed. Also fired were lawyers and officials responsible for safety and dealings with regulators, according to people familiar with the matter.

Re:So no managers were at fault? Just engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179973)

I would say that this post should be modded up, but that would still be insufficient. The original summary and links should be deleted, replaced by a new submission that actually links to informative articles like the one in parent post.
Then we can bicker and argue about whether upper management should be punished for a middle-management decision, and speculate about how much of a severance package they got, instead of raging at a false impression of events.

Company Culture (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179761)

Great. They fired some idiots. Now how about looking further up the ladder at those who failed to supervise them, who led them toward doing this disaster? This isn't just a couple rogue employees. This is about the company.

Re:Company Culture (4, Informative)

TigerTime (626140) | about 4 months ago | (#47180391)

"More than half of those officials were executives, and Ms. Barra said five other GM employees have been disciplined but remain with the company. Ms. Barra wouldn't identify the employees by name, except to confirm that two low-ranking engineers involved with the design of the defective switch were dismissed. Also fired were lawyers and officials responsible for safety and dealings with regulators"

Do you know what you're talking about?

That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (4, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 4 months ago | (#47179781)

I'm somewhat surprised that the company named names. I suppose the result of the investigation made it clear that his intention was only to cover his own ass, which must have tipped the scales.

Now if only we could get names of lawbreakers out of government agencies. I know it will be a cold day in Hell before that happens, but it would be nice

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (2)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 4 months ago | (#47179897)

It depends. If he was a licensed PE he had a professional and legal obligation to intervene with the switch, regardless of how he felt about it. If he wasn't a PE, then whomever the PE was that was managing him and approving his designs is to blame.

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (2)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#47180055)

If he wasn't a PE, then whomever the PE was that was managing him and approving his designs is to blame.

There may be no PE approval in the design process. There is an exemption from such a requirement for engineering done in-house for the manufacture of a product.

Some federal agency with automotive oversight may have added an explicit requirment for PE review and signature of designs. But this is unlikely, as PE licensing is under states' jurisdiction.

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (1)

3dr (169908) | about 4 months ago | (#47180133)

True. It's a shame, really, since his PRIDE is what apparently kept him from sucking it up and fixing it. His pride killed these people. And no design reviews of the switch for torque and electrical capacity? The managers have a role in this, too.

But in this whole scenario, I think the one thing that surprises me is how they are designing yet another ignition switch. How many switch variants do there need to be across a manufacturer's models? I'd divide it across RFID-enabled keys vs. plain-Jane metal keys.

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (2)

slinches (1540051) | about 4 months ago | (#47180189)

Actually, there's no regulation that requires a PE sign off on products like automobiles.

From Wikipedia: [wikipedia.org]

Since regulation of the practice of engineering is performed by the individual states in the U.S., areas of engineering involved in interstate commerce are essentially unregulated. These areas include much of mechanical, aerospace and chemical engineering—and may be specifically exempted from regulation under an "industrial exemption." An industrial exemption covers engineers who design products such as automobiles that are sold (or have the potential to be sold) outside the state where they are produced, as well as the equipment used to produce the product

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 4 months ago | (#47180303)

A PE licensed sign-off is required as far I know on construction of buildings and plant equipment like pumps. It is not required for automotive parts or parts in general.

Very few PEs in automotive engineering (3, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47180337)

If he was a licensed PE he had a professional and legal obligation to intervene with the switch, regardless of how he felt about it. If he wasn't a PE, then whomever the PE was that was managing him and approving his designs is to blame.

In automotive engineering PEs are a rarity. There is no requirement whatsoever that a PE be involved or that one signs off on any designs. You find PEs in civil engineering and some aerospace and a few other fields but most engineering does not require such a certification. There would be a production part approval and there would be an engineer of some sort who would be responsible for the design and production. Most parts in US automotive production require a PPAP document to be completed for both design and production processes. It's usually a pointless waste of time but there is a formality to the process and it does assign responsibilities.

He has already been deposed in lawsuits (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 months ago | (#47180065)

Assuming that was under the corporate umbrella at the time

Re:That guy is going to need a lawyer real fast (1)

TWX (665546) | about 4 months ago | (#47180431)

I'm somewhat surprised that the company named names.

I am surprised too. That could be a violation of labor law since it sounds like the disclosure was made voluntarily by the company, as opposed to being demanded in a court of law.

GM might have just opened itself up to lawsuits from those that were fired, and I don't mean old-GM, but the current incarnation. It depends on the laws of the state in which the people were employed. In my state this would be illegal.

Get those little people! (1)

fredrated (639554) | about 4 months ago | (#47179787)

It's always the little people that do the real damage! Not anybody at the top!

Re:Get those little people! (2)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 4 months ago | (#47179869)

It's always the little people that do the real damage! Not anybody at the top!

According to the article, 15 people were fired and this includes some "senior leaders and executives"

Re:Get those little people! (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#47180197)

And according to the article, none of those "senior leaders and executives" were anywhere near the top.
Senior Product Engineer and Executive Director of Engineer Slave Pit are not at the top. The CEO and anyone within a Bacon Number of 3 of the CEO were held blameless.

A quote from the Tucker movie... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179805)

"The Big Three should be indicted for manslaughter."

My favorite part... (1)

Kenja (541830) | about 4 months ago | (#47179823)

Heard this on NPR, at one point a company representative said something akin to "the only test of if the company changes are enough is if this happens again". In other words, "just wait, if we don't kill a bunch of people again everything worked out!".

Re:My favorite part... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179947)

The movie FIGHT CLUB gave a very believable explanation of how car recall decisions are made.

Re:My favorite part... (1)

Keyboard Rage (3448471) | about 4 months ago | (#47180349)

"The first rule of car recall decisions is: you don't talk about car recall decisions."?

Re:My favorite part... (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | about 4 months ago | (#47180121)

You are deliberately misreading that company comment. The statement is "we lied in the past so you won't believe us if we say we fixed it so the proof that it's fixed is that it doesn't happen again". It's a major admission.

Re:My favorite part... (1, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 months ago | (#47180389)

13 people died in incidents somehow related to the ignition switch turning off the engine.

This is across how many GM cars sold? Tens of millions? It looks like a non-issue to me. I mean seriously, your keyring is too heavy and so shuts off your car's engine?

People occasionally choke on hotdogs. More people have died because of faulty hotdog design in the past year than GM has claimed in the past 20 years.

Evaluating change effectiveness (2)

sjbe (173966) | about 4 months ago | (#47180441)

Heard this on NPR, at one point a company representative said something akin to "the only test of if the company changes are enough is if this happens again". In other words, "just wait, if we don't kill a bunch of people again everything worked out!".

Not to defend GM when they don't deserve it (they don't) but how else will you really, truly know for certain if the changes worked? Just practically speaking the only way to really know if certain types of changes are effective in the real world is to try it in the real world. You can plan and evaluate until the cows come home but sooner or later you have to try the solution out for real. Yes it's scary but sometimes there aren't any alternatives.

remove limited liability from owners (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179837)

its the only way to solve the problems

stockholders need to be fully liable based on the percentage of ownership in the company

Re:remove limited liability from owners (2)

jae471 (1102461) | about 4 months ago | (#47180231)

So I, sitting with .0000004% ownership of Company XYZ through Mutual Fund ABC via my employer's 401k plan, am now partially liable for Company XYZ fuck-ups?
Um, no.

Re:remove limited liability from owners (0)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#47180243)

its the only way to solve the problems

stockholders need to be fully liable based on the percentage of ownership in the company

The top goons don't hold stock. They hold options, often illegal options, to buy stock at ridiculously low prices. Need a new yacht? Buy stock for pennies on the dollar, immediately dump the stock. They don't even have to buy the stock - they can just trade the options.

Hopefully... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47179855)

this will server as a model to other companies (and dare I say the US Govt?) to get rid of incompetence, arrogance, and stupidity.

So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (4, Interesting)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 4 months ago | (#47179871)

According to this NPR story:
http://www.npr.org/2014/03/31/... [npr.org]

Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com had a test drive of the Cobalt in 2004, with a GM engineer in the car. Multiple times Oldham's knee hit the key fob and car shut down.

Also, a major factor preventing identification of the ignition switch issue (or at least providing plausible deniability) is the part number. GM had 2 sets of cars: one set supposedly had this issue, the other did not. Both had the same ignition switch, so if there was a difference between the two sets, the ignition switch was not it.

Now we know the ignition switch was changed, but the part number stayed the same, making it difficult to correctly identify the issue. We're supposed to believe a single engineer was responsible for changing a part but not the part number?

Not that it matters much to me. My car searches start with Consumer Reports reviews and reliability ratings, and so no GM car has been in consideration for a while.

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (3, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 4 months ago | (#47179995)

I'm not sure why you assert that Oldham was a liar.

One of the articles above has this excerpt:

When one engineer specifically asked DeGiorgio in 2004 whether the switch met torque specifications, DeGiorgio didn’t respond. Evidence the investigators gathered showed that he started two e-mails but never sent them. He also rejected another engineer’s suggestion around the same time that the torque be increased after a Cobalt stalled during a media test-drive event.

The media test event refers to the Oldham test drive.

One of the major difficulties in isolating the problem was the ignition switch was changed for 2007 and newer Cobalts but the part number was not changed. So internal investigators could not easily identify the problem. All the investigators knew was something was different about 2006 and older models.

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (4, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 months ago | (#47180291)

He's not asserting that. He's asserting that GM is calling Oldham a liar by saying that "nobody knew about it", when Oldham had already raised the question.

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#47180319)

"The part number didn't change so we couldn't figure out what the issue was."
Horse fucking shit.

1: Get a 2006 model.
2: Get a 2007 model.
3: LOOK AT THEM.

Beyond that, for every single fucking part on your assembly line, you're either making it your fucking self or ordering it from someone else.
Look at how you're building the new fucking part or look at what shows up on the fucking invoice from the company you ordered it from.

All it takes is for someone to get off their fucking ass and actually go look at shit. Toyota's acting like they'd be unable to tell the difference between their two dogs if someone had swapped their collars.

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 4 months ago | (#47180335)

GM, not Toyata. (Was fresh off my rant about Toyata.)

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180029)

Bought my first Toyota in '85. Never looked back. The clock worked, the gas gauge worked. Never owned a GM car where that was all true.

Re:So Scott Oldham of Edmunds.com is a liar? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 4 months ago | (#47180395)

If your knee bumps the key fob, something is wrong. Scoot your seat back.

Blame game (2)

dsmithhfx (1772254) | about 4 months ago | (#47179953)

Can you say "patsy" ?

Re:Blame game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180261)

No, its called being a fucking engineer, that's where the buck stops.

LLC? (1)

bswarm (2540294) | about 4 months ago | (#47179979)

Isn't GM an LLC? Which means management and owners are protected from liability for any wrongdoing?

Faulty switch at GM (2)

Independent_forever (1851460) | about 4 months ago | (#47180013)

Yes, but the question is WHY did this one person feel it necessary to hide some defect from management? Me thinks there has been a scapegoat here as I believe most, if not all, of these types of cases involve employees at various levels feeling pressured into delivering some end result but not be provided the resources and/or support needed for that to occur. Unless someone is just plain evil or sick at heart and is hiding defects in critical car parts to somehow kill other people it really doesn't make sense and is simply difficult to believe. I don't buy one guy did this of his volition without any reason...something stinks in this story...

Re:Faulty switch at GM (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 4 months ago | (#47180199)

I'm not saying that there wasn't scapegoating but from the article the facts are that this one engineer originally designed the switch. So there might be some ego and embarrassment about a part he designed was faulty. It would explain why he would change the design and not let others know. A Star Trek analogy would be Lewis Zimmerman [memory-alpha.org] and his embarassment that his EMH Mark I holograms were widely rejected and relegated to menial tasks especially since he used his own image as their template.

There is also a possible explanation that not changing the part number would also keep the costs down as change orders/revisions/new part orders cost money. On paper, GM didn't order a new part from Delphi. But that's my speculation.

Praise in Public... (1, Interesting)

jvp (27996) | about 4 months ago | (#47180085)

...punish in private!

Unlike a lot of nay-sayers, I'm a big fan of GM and will continue to buy specific products from them. However, I'm *not* a fan of this move. Always praise in public and punish in private. They should have simply released a press statement with something like, "We've determine who was responsible for this ignition switch issue, and they've been terminated or dealt with accordingly." Done. Naming them serves no purpose whatsoever.

Re:Praise in Public... (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47180167)

GM didn't name DiGiorgio as the engineer at fault for the situation. When the documents started coming out about the ignition defect during the Congressional inquiries into the matter, DiGiorgio just happened to have his name on a bunch of them and was the guy unlucky enough to have signed off on the defective ignition switch. Had they punished entirely in private, there would no doubt be stories on every major news network demanding to know whether or not Ray DiGiorgio was fired. He was pretty much doomed from the moment those papers got made public.

Brooke Melton (2)

darrellg1 (969068) | about 4 months ago | (#47180097)

Was a friend. I want someone in jail for this.

Step 1 (1)

Polo (30659) | about 4 months ago | (#47180129)

Step 1: assign blame.

Everything about this says bad corporate culture.

I read the the document... (5, Informative)

Streetlight (1102081) | about 4 months ago | (#47180225)

It took quite a lot of time, but the NYT posted the report and I downloaded it and read all the report up to the point it makes recommendations about reorganizing some of GM's administrative structure, which I skimmed. The folks involved in this debacle behaved like they were in a Marx Brothers movie. There's the GM Nod in which committee members all nodded that things would be done and when they left the room did nothing and the the crossed arms pointing which meant the individuals crossed arms pointing to others meaning they weren't going to do anything. There seemed to be hundreds of instances when folks couldn't remember what went on in the multiple meetings about the ignition switch issue. There apparently is an urban legend at GM that became standard operating procedure that notes were not to be taken at meetings as well as minutes. No wonder no one remembered what they were told or said. What's it called, probable deniability?

Just one situation out of many struck me as showing the engineers' incompetence: At one point it became clear that model year Cobalts after 2007 did not have the problem with the ignition switch where it would move from run to accessory just by brushing the key fob hanging from the inserted key with clothing. A couple of guys, including an intern, went to a junk yard to examine a car that had been involved in some kind of accident. The intern noticed that the ignition switched required very little torque to switch from run to accessory so the group got a fisherman's scale to measure the torque. They then got appropriate torque meters (Snap-on tools has nice ones which I have used) but only looked at the newer cars because they couldn't find any older ones to test. DeGiorgio had asserted there was no change in the switch torque from the initial design, so I'm guessing they just ignored the junk car result. My guess is they could have looked for old cars at used car dealers or car auction lots for testing or even got hold of the Michigan state motor vehicle department to find owners of older Cobalts. GM should also have a database of Cobalt VINs connected to registered owners. And of course, the ultimate incompetence was that no connection was ever made that when an ignition switch moved from run to accessory mode the air bag sensors were disabled and would have solved the mystery of why air bags did not deploy during accidents when the switch was turned.

This is a very interesting, fascinating and engrossing report and I encourage people to read it. I wonder if it might become required reading for discussion in engineering and law schools.

Re:I read the the document... (0)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47180345)

Uh-huh. Sure. I'll go read it. Yep, I'll definitely remember to do that. Totally won't forget everything you just said the minute I hit the parking lot.. and it's gone. What was I going to do again?

Doubtful (2)

hsmith (818216) | about 4 months ago | (#47180251)

Having worked in large organizations before, even surfacing problems to management in meetings the issues get ignored. Perhaps the guy wasn't smart enough to create a paper trail saying there was an issue. Seems like too nice a scape goat. Where is the QA? Anyone that designs makes mistakes, but the point is you have a team helping verify what you produce is up to spec. Telling me none of the other thousands of people involved in the vehicles didn't catch the issue either?

Issues with the story (5, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 months ago | (#47180381)

a) There was no change management?
b) A single engineer can replace a critical component without anyone ever needing to sign off?
c) Not answering an e-mail does not make one culpable, it merely points to a time management problem or not enough time to respond
d) Even when an e-mail did not get answered, nobody cared enough to follow up?

These things point to serious managerial issues. Engineers can make mistakes, covering them up and pointing the finger is a managerial issue.

Sucks to be him (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47180433)

It sucks to be him.

But it also sucks to be one of the people or an associate of one of the people who died because of him.

Completely in-house? (1)

gumbright (574609) | about 4 months ago | (#47180437)

Did GM also make the bus they just threw those people under?
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