GM engineer OKd switches below standards, papers say
WASHINGTON - A General Motors engineer signed off on a design change for troubled ignition switches even though those changes did not meet company standards, according to documents provided to a House panel.
The disclosure appeared to conflict with information provided by GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio during 2013 legal proceedings surrounding the company's defective ignition switches that are linked to 13 deaths.
The manufacturer of the switch, Delphi Automotive, said the redesigned switches used in 2008-11 models of the recalled GM vehicles still did not meet GM standards, in an assertion that could increase the number of deaths linked to the defect.
"An analysis of NHTSA early warning report data shows that there are 14 fatal crashes in the recalled 2008-2011 vehicles involving a potential problem with an airbag, steering, electrical or unknown component," senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.
On Tuesday, GM CEO Mary Barra and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acting Director David Friedman are scheduled to testify before a House Energy and Commerce panel about actions by GM and the NHTSA over the last decade related to the faulty ignition switches.
Those switches were found to turn off engines unexpectedly during operation as well as air bags, making steering and braking difficult.
GM has recalled 2.6 million vehicles, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion.
In an April 2013 deposition related to a crash in Georgia involving a recalled GM car, DeGiorgio said the company "certainly did not approve a detent plunger design change" for the 2006 replacement switches.
However, the Democratic members of the committee said: "GM has provided the panel with documentation verifying that a Ray DeGiorgio, lead design engineer for the Cobalt ignition switch, signed off on a Delphi ignition switch change on April 26, 2006."