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GM News: New Documents Shine A Light On GM's Ignition Switch Crisis, Two Executives Step Down


William Maley

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Just when you thought General Motors couldn't dig any deeper with the ignition switch recall, they seem to find a way. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee released over 600 pages of documents relating to the GM ignition switch recall early this week and it shows a number of deeply entrenched problems.

Let's begin with a story we reported last week that said two engineers from GM, Gary Altman and Ray DeGiorgio were put on paid leave. We knew DeGiorgio was put on paid leave for testifying for not knowing the part change, even though he signed a document authorizing the change. But Altman was another question as we didn't know why he was put on paid leave. We now know that Altman was the engineer who bumped the key with his knee thanks to a complaint document filed in 2004. However, Altman was the one testified at the wrongful death trial of Brooke Melton that he did not feel the car was unsafe. Altman was also the one who rejected a fix for the switch because it was expensive and take too long.

The documents also highlight that a number of GM employees tried to thwart an in-house investigationby Brian Stouffer, an investigator with GM. Bloomberg says the documents reveal a paper trail of pushback, inaccurate data and a lack of cooperation from co-workers into the ignition switch. One of the big question Stouffer was looking into was why airbag issues dropped after 2008. We know now that it was because GM had changed the part, but not the number.

NHTSA was starting to suspect something was back in 2007. In a presentation on November 15, 2007, NHTSA's Defects Assessment Division (DAD) showed that the 2005 Cobalt had a higher than average airbag warranty than any other GM model. Then there is an email dated September 17 which says in one of the paragraphs,

"Notwithstanding GM's indications that they see no specific problem pattern, DAD perceives a pattern of non-deployments in these vehicles that does not exist in their peers and that their circumstances are such that, in our engineering judgment, merited a deployment, and that such a deployment would have reduced injury levels or saved lives.

NHTSA isn't impressed with GM's responses to their inquiries. In a email sent on July 23, 2013, NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation chief Frank Borris wrote "The general perception is that GM is slow to communicate, slow to act, and at times, requires additional effort of ODI that we do not feel is necessary with some of your peers." This is a possible reason as to why NHTSA has started fining the company last week over their slow response to their questions.

Now it should be noted that Mike Robinson, GM’s vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs said in email "comes like a bolt out of the blue.”

That isn't only bad news hitting GM. Today, the company announced that two executives were stepping down. Selim Bingol, senior vice president of public policy and communications, and Melissa Howell, senior vice president for human resources, will “pursue other interests,” the company said in a statement.

Bingol led GM’s public relations team since 2010 when he was appointed by then GM CEO Ed Whitacre. Howell has been with the company since 1990, and became Senior VP of HR last year.

GM said Howell will be succeeded by John Quattrone, previously executive director of human resources for GM's global product development, purchasing, and supply chain operations. No successor has been named for Bingol at this time.

Source: Bloomberg, Detroit Free Press, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, General Motors

Press Release is on Page 2


GM Names Quattrone Senior VP, Global Human Resources

  • Howell and Bingol to pursue interests outside company

DETROIT – General Motors today named John J. Quattrone as Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources. Quattrone, currently executive director of Human Resources for Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain organizations, succeeds Melissa A. Howell who is leaving GM to pursue other interests. GM also announced that Selim Bingol, Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Public Policy, is leaving the company to pursue other interests.

Quattrone's appointment, as well as Howell's and Bingol's departures are effective immediately.

Quattrone, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., began his GM career in 1975 at the Fisher Body Syracuse Plant. Since then, he has held various positions in human resources and labor relations at GM. Quattrone was appointed General Director of Human Resources for North America Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing in September 1996. He was appointed GM North America¹s Vice President of Human Resources in 2001 and was GM Powertrain¹s Vice President of Human Resources prior to his current assignment.

"John brings to the job a deep and rich breadth of experience across all levels of the enterprise," said GM CEO Mary Barra. "This background is invaluable as we create lasting change that puts the customer at the center of how we work and how we measure ourselves going forward."

Quattrone received his Bachelor of Science degree from Le Moyne College and earned a Master of Science degree from West Virginia University. Quattrone serves on the board of directors of American Society of Employers and previously served on the board of directors of Health Grades, Inc.

Barra praised Howell's contribution at a key time for the company. "Through Melissa's passion, the values that make up today's GM are now becoming a central part of how we develop and guide our employees around the world," said Barra. "We are deeply grateful for her dedication to GM and all that she did to help build a stronger HR function to support our people and business."

Howell joined GM in 1990. She was named Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources in February 2013.

Bingol was Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications at AT&T before joining GM in 2010 as Senior Vice President Global Communications. Global Public Policy was added to Bingol's portfolio in October 2012.

During his tenure, Bingol guided the communications around GM's 2010 initial public offering, the largest in history at that time, as well as the introduction of several new products that have received widespread acclaim for quality, styling, and performance.

"We appreciate Selim's service and for his helping tell the GM story during one of the most exciting periods in the company's history," said Barra.

A successor to Bingol will be named later.


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Always ugly before the light comes through. They should use this time to purge old GM thinking. Time for new fresh blood to fully turn GM into the World Class company it is capable of.

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      Source: Wall Street Journal (Subscription Required), Automotive News (Subscription Required)
      H/T to @balthazar for alerting us to this story

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