GM CEO Mary Barra, Anton Valukas to appear at government hearing on iginition switch recall

(WXYZ) - General Motors CEO Mary Barra and former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who headed the investigation into the faulty ignition switch recall, will participate in a hearing on Wednesday, June 18 before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.


An earlier report submitted by Valukas indicated, General Motors could have saved lives had it taken responsibility years ago for the faulty ignition switch that has resulted in 13 deaths and many injuries, according to the internal investigative report.

Former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas submitted his 325-page report to the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA).


“Had the safety defect been understood and addressed, GM would have prevented injuries and fatalities that occurred in the coming years,” writes Valukas.

The report is particularly critical of those “…tasked with fixing the problem – sophisticated engineers with responsibility to provide consumers with safe and reliable automobiles – did not understand one of the most fundamental consequences of the switch failing and the car stalling: the airbags would not deploy.”

GM waited until earlier this year to recall 2.6 million vehicles over the faulty ignition switch.

The report focuses much of the blame on Ray DeGiorgio, the 61-year old engineer from Commerce Township, who has been fired along with 14 other employees and executives.

Valukas says GM “investigators were misled by the GM engineer who approved the… switch in the first place.”

During a review of millions of documents, Valukas uncovered emails between DeGiorgio and Delphi, the supplier working on the ignition switches in 2002.  The emails make it clear – DeGiorgio knew there were big problems.

Delphi’s testing clearly showed the switches did not meet GM specifications. When Delphi suggested it would not cost much to improve the switches, but it would delay vehicle production, DeGiorgio emailed them back, saying “maintain present course,”  all the while admitting the specifications were still not being met, the report says.

DeGiorgio even signed his name on that 2002 email as “Ray (tired of the switch from hell) DeGiorgio.

The report also shows that DeGiorgio never told anyone that he approved a faulty switch for production.

“After interviewing hundreds of witnesses, we have not identified any GM personnel other than DeGiorgio, who received or reviewed these test results, or knew (prior to 2013) that the Ignition Switch failed to meet the specification when it was approved for production in 2002,” Valukas’s report states.  

DeGiorgio and other engineers all later claimed to investigators that they never realized the faulty switches could disable airbags, meaning they did not realize safety was at stake.

Valukas proposes several recommendations for the automaker to ensure this never happens again. In his report he says that the should board get quarterly reports and that safety must be “embedded in the fabric of the organization.”

Valukas also writes that employees need to understand that they have an obligation to raise concerns about safety. If an employee feels safety issues are not being resolved, they need to speak up until they are heard.  

This includes, say Valukas, introducing a plan to make sure the people at the very top – even the CEO – know about the problems.

Valukas Report on GM

Consumer groups like the Center for Auto Safety and Center for Justice at the New York Law School say GM has not gone far enough.  The company has documented 13 deaths from crashes related to the defective ignition switches, but the Center for Auto Safety says the number could be into the hundreds.  Read more HERE

The Center for Justice says GM has attorneys involved in litigation and the investigation who should have been the first to go. Read more HERE.

GM also continues to fight customer lawsuits but says a program for compensation will be out later this summer. 

Safety is a new priority for GM.  Consumer groups have suggested establishing an Ombudsman to whom employees can take whistle blower safety issues. 

The Ombudsman could then report directly to the CEO.  

GM spokesman Greg Martin tells 7 Action News the number of deaths related to this case are likely no more than 74, documented by Reuters News Service. 

GM has hired Ken Feinberg to handle compensation to victims. Feinberg administered compensation programs for 9/11 victims in New York and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Martin says GM is paying Feinberg but will not say how much.

Martin would not comment on involvement by King and Spaulding attorneys in the Valukas investigation and would not comment about the proposal for the company to establish an Ombudsman to handle internal whistle blower safety issues and take them directly to the CEO. 

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