SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) - 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 issued today.
Former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who headed the investigation into the faulty ignition switch, submitted his 325-page report to the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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“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.