General Motors (GM) announced another safety problem to the vehicles affected by the ignition switch recall. The auto company is recalling 2.19 million of the same Chevrolet Cobalt, HHR, Saturn Ion, Sky, Pontiac G5, and Solstice models to fix the problem that allows keys to be removed from the ignitions that are not in the “off” position.
GM said they are aware of the complaints involving the keys coming out of ignitions. With this, the automaker will fix the ignition lock cylinder to prevent the said problem. One of the incidents involving the said issue is a certain vehicle that rolled away in a parking lot which resulted into a crash and injury.
Another problem that GM faces regarding the faulty ignition switch is that it accidentally slips from its “run” to “accessory” positions that can turn off the engine and disabled the airbag systems. This faulty ignition switch defect has already led to 13 deaths.
In line with this, GM has suspended its two senior engineers, with pay, who oversaw changes in ignition switch designs. "This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened. It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM," said GM CEO Mary Barra. The company did not name the two engineers, but Bloomberg News reported they were Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman.
During the U.S. Congressional hearing last week, Senator Claire McCaskill alleged that DeGiorgio had lied under oath during the 2013 desposition in a case filled by the family of a crash victim. Moreover, Senator McCaskill said that she could not comprehend why DeGiorgio hadn’t been fired. On the other hand, Altman had been an engineering manager on the Chevrolet Cobalt that is included in GM’s biggest recall since 2004.
In 2006, DeGiorgio approved a design change in the faulty ignition switch that made it more robust and improved the spring. However, DeGiorgio authorized its production without fully documenting the decision. The allegations pointing to DeGiorgio heightened because he was the lead design engineer on Cobalt ignition switches. In 2013, a suit was filled by the family of a crash victim against GM in which DeGiorgio testified that he wasn’t aware that the auto company had made any change to the part.
In November 2004 customers complained about the engine “can be keyed off with knee while driving”, but the Cobalt program engineering manager rejected a change due to parts costs and long lead times.