General Motors announced it had released 15 employees last week following the results of US attorney Anton Valukas’ scathing report on the company. The 325-page report highlighted several cultural flaws within GM that may have led to the delayed recall of millions of cars with faulty ignition switches and also listed the names of employees who displayed a lack of urgency and a pattern of misconduct.
Among those named and released from the automaker was engineer Ray DeGiorgio. The report may distribute blame for the ignition switch crisis throughout the entire company, but it said the problem began and remained unfixed largely due to DeGiorgio’s actions. The 23-year veteran of the company is mentioned 207-times in the Valukas Report, including in the very first sentence.
DeGiorgio was the engineer who approved the faulty ignition switch in 2002, even though he knew it was flimsy and not quite up to GM’s standards. During a probe of the issue in March, he said he didn’t realize the switch could pose a safety risk as it worked without incident during preliminary testing. Investigators might have believed it was an honest mistake if it didn’t appear as though DeGiorgio was trying to cover up the fact the switches ever had anything wrong with them at all.
Knowing the torque rating on the switches wasn’t up to par, DeGiorgio approached the manufacturer of the switch, Delphi Automotive, with options for strengthening it. At the same time, he was also trying to fix a problem where the cars with the same switch wouldn’t start in cold weather. The work order for the redesigned ignition noted an electrical change to remedy the cold weather issue, but made no mention of the new retention spring and plunger which had also been installed to increase the torque rating. DeGiorgio then repeatedly told his co-workers in 2009 and after that there had been no changes that would affect the torque in the ignition.
DeGiorgio later claimed during a disposition he had “absolutely” no knowledge of a change to the ignition switch nor did he remember authorizing the change himself. He was put on paid leave for two months before being fired from the company and hasn’t spoken publicly since the recall.