General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has suspended two of its switch engineers in the wake of the massive recall linked with more than 12 deaths and over 31 accidents. The automaker has also reportedly asked NASA to verify that the cars it recalled can actually be driven safely.
GM investigates recall internally
The Wall Street Journal cites two unnamed sources who said General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) suspended engineers Gary Altman and Ray DeGiorgio with pay as a result of its internal investigation. The company believes the two men were involved in the problems which led to possibly faulty switches being installed in millions of cars.
The suspensions come more than a week after lawmakers in the House and Senate angrily questioned General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) CEO Mary Barra about why she had not disciplined or fired anyone. She said at that time that she was waiting the results from their internal investigation. Lawmakers also expressed concern that the employ “who had obviously committed perjury hadn’t even been suspended.”
General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) recalled some 2.8 million Chevy Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other vehicles after reports of the deaths and accidents relating to the faulty switches. The switches were found to be faulty because they could cut power to air bags and electronic steering.
Engineers named in depositions
According to The Wall Street Journal, depositions for the 2013 civil suit filed in connection with one of the crashes name both Altman and DeGiorgio as playing roles in decisions about the ignition switches. In the 2013 depositions, DeGiorgio reportedly said he didn’t know there were problems with the switch. Documents from parts supplier Delphi Automotive indicated that he had approved that the switch be changed in April 2006. DeGiorgio was the engineer lawmakers accused of perjury.
However, in his deposition, the engineer said he didn’t remember signing anything which authorized the change. The change in 2006 was supposed to be to a safer switch which corrected earlier problems which had been noticed as far back as 2001. However, no recalls were issued in connection with those switches. Also documents seem to suggest that DeGiorgio did not follow General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) protocol, which states that he should have assigned a new part number to the switch.
Altman stated in his deposition that the problems with the switch did not create a risk for drivers, even in the incidents in which the air bags did not deploy.
GM turns to NASA for help
USA Today reports that General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has also asked NASA to assign a team to see if it is possible for the recalled cars to be safely driven. Barra has said in many different cases that the ignition will not malfunction if drivers use it without anything hanging from it. In fact, she even went so far as to say that she would allow her teenage son to drive one of the cars like that.
Bara also announced to employees today that it was beginning a new program called Speak Up for Safety. It’s similar to a whistleblower program in which employees are directed to report any safety concerns they have “quickly and forcefully.”