In its own internal investigation for small car ignition switch failures, General Motors reported that “no GM employees knowingly compromised safety to save money.” Despite this, new documents that GM sent to federal regulators reveal that employees working on “the Cobalt program were more loath to raise costs even by a small amount than the teams working on larger, more expensive vehicles.”
Automotive News writes that the documents cover two recalls involving over 7 million large and mid-size cars from Chevrolet, Pontiac, Cadillac, and Oldsmobile. In these instances, “engineers approached inadvertent vehicle shutoffs as a more serious concern…quickly implementing a solution even though there were no crashes and no evidence that the problems were widespread.” As in GM’s small car ignition switch failures, now-fired engineer Ray DeGiorgio approved modified switches without changing the part number, a decision AN reports Mary Barra previously called “a violation of ‘Engineering 101.'”
While GM engineers working on the company’s small cars like the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, “classified stalling…as merely an inconvenience to drivers, refusing to spend time or money on a fix, as complaints piled up for years,” engineers working on Cadillac models swiftly “redesigned the switch used in the Cadillac CTS and SRX after some employee test drivers accidentally turned off the ignition with a knee while driving ‘competitively.'” AN reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never received a complaint from customers regarding stalling in the the CTS and SRX.
GM spokesman Alan Adler described the ignition switch redesign in GM’s larger, more profitable cars “as ‘more routine’ than what happened with the Cobalt.”
“It wasn’t because of anything that was seen as a safety issue,” Adler said, according to AN. “Part changes are not unusual…Engineers are constantly working on a vehicle. They don’t just launch and then stop.”