Product Liability

Fourth GM executive leaves company in wake of defective ignition switch delayed recalls

GM logo Fourth GM executive leaves company in wake of defective ignition switch delayed recallsAnother General Motors (GM) executive who studied the automaker’s faulty ignition switches before they were recalled in February will leave GM after nearly four decades with the company. The retirement of Jim Federico, GM’s executive director of global vehicle performance, safety, proving grounds and test labs, brings the number of top officials to retire or resign to four since GM finally recalled the defective part more than a decade after first discovering it.

Mr. Frederico led an internal analysis of the ignition switch defect in 2012, according to GM documents obtained by Congress and recently released.

Although court documents and testimony indicate GM knew about the potentially deadly defect for more than a decade, GM refrained from recalling the affected vehicles until February. During that time, the faulty ignition switches have been linked to 31 crashes and 13 deaths.

GM said that Mr. Frederico’s retirement is not related to the ignition switch probe. “Jim Federico has decided to retire and pursue other interests,” a company spokesman said. “This is not switch-related.”

The switch can allow the key to turn the ignition to the accessory or off position while the vehicle is in motion, cutting power to critical safety systems including power brakes, steering, and airbags. The error can occur when a keychain bearing other keys or objects is used in the ignition and when the vehicle hits a bump.

In April, GM’s communications chief and lead Washington advisor Selim Bingol and human resources head Melissa Howell also left the company, though GM wouldn’t disclose whether they resigned or were dismissed. Their departures were the first major changes in the company’s leadership since Mary Barra took over as CEO in January. Ms. Barra has vowed to find which individuals were responsible for failing to fix the faulty switches.

GM global engineering chief John Calabrese also left the company last month. The automaker said his departure, like Mr. Frederico’s, was a voluntary retirement.

The automaker also suspended with pay two engineers in April. Ray DiGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the decision to change the design of the faulty ignition switch without changing the part number – a measure that indicates at least some company officials may have tried to sweep the defect issue under the rug.


New York Times