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The 2005 E-mail That Alerted GM to Engine Stalls

Tina Robinson2 years ago

Yesterday was round two of House hearings into the GM ignition recall, and CEO Mary Barra along with chairman of Jenner & Block Anton Valukas appeared before an Energy and Commerce subcommittee to testify. Although the hearings were more subdued than April’s affair, a “bombshell” moment was dropped when Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) questioned Barra about a series of e-mails from 2005 that alerted GM engineers of safety problems related to ignition switches.

‘I’m thinking big recall’

The e-mails, according to the Wall Street Journal, were sent in 2005 by a GM employee named Laura J. Andres. Andres had been test driving a 2006 Chevrolet Impala Special when the vehicle’s engine stalled after going over a bump in the road. Andres had a GM technician review the car and came to the conclusion that the ignition switch was at fault. In Aug. 2005, a chain of e-mails was sent from Andres to multiple engineers – including Ray DeGiorgio – alerting the company to the potential problem.

“I think this is a serious safety problem, especially if this switch is on multiple programs. I’m thinking big recall,” wrote Andres. “I was driving 45 mph when I hit the pothole and the car shut off, and I had a car driving behind me that swerved around me. I don’t like to imagine a customer with kids in the back seat, on I-75, and hitting a pothole, in rush hour traffic.”

While the switch in the Impala was different than the one found to be defective in nearly 2.6 million Chevy Cobalt and Saturn Ion vehicles, both switch designs were approved by DeGiorgio. DeGiorgio was one of 15 employees fired in early June after the Valukas Report was released. Much of the blame for the decade-long delay to recall the vehicles has been focused on DeGiorgio who not only approved the Cobalt switches when they failed to meet specifications but also later redesigned the switch without changing the part number. His actions, the Valukas Report concluded, led to years of GM engineers’ inability to link engine stalls to airbag failure.

3.16 Million Chevy, Buick, Cadillacs Recalled

On Monday, GM announced a recall affecting 3.16 million mid- to large-size vehicles with a faulty key design that can cause engine stalls and similar problems as the Cobalt. Included in that recall was the 2006-2014 Chevy Impala – almost ten years after Andres sent her e-mail. A separate recall was also issued on Friday of last week affecting 512,000 Chevy Camaros, also with ignition keys that were found to cause engine stalls.

“”We encourage our employees to speak up for safety, and an issue like the one described in the memo is something that today we would respond to immediately,” GM said in a statement released after the hearing. Barra also stated during her testimony that engine stalls are now considered to be a safety issue at GM.

So far this year, GM has issued 44 recalls affecting more than 20 million vehicles. The company was fined $35 million by the U.S. Department of Transportation for failing to act in a timely manner. The automaker is also the subject of two Congressional investigations, criminal investigations, and numerous lawsuits.

GM Compensation Fund

Thomas J. Henry is representing more than 1,000 GM recall victims across the United States and has been investigating injuries and deaths linked to the recall since day one. The firm launched a nationwide media investigation into the recall in April, which brought forth thousands of affected individuals who had information critical to the investigation – information that the firm has handed over to federal agencies also investigating GM’s sluggish response the recall. As more and more individuals have flocked to Thomas J. Henry for representation, the firm has continued to push GM for a victim settlement fund. The firm has had several talks with GM’s victim compensation expert Ken Feinberg regarding appropriate victim compensation for the thousands affected by a fatal design flaw in ignition switches which left numerous dead and countless others seriously injured. 

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