The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Business & Technology

June 7, 2014

Engineer's switch began GM woes

(Continued)

“Negligence is a criminal charge,” she said.

The Valukas report makes no mention of negligence. But it says plenty about incompetence throughout GM.

THE NEW SWITCH

In the late 1990s, GM patented a new ignition switch designed to be cheaper, less prone to failure and less apt to catch fire than previous switches. But in prototype vehicles, the switch worked poorly. Veteran switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio had to redesign its electrical system.

The switch had mechanical problems, too. It didn’t meet GM’s specifications for the force required to rotate it. But increasing the force would have required more changes. So in 2002, DeGiorgio — who made several critical decisions in this case — approved the switch anyway. He signed an email to the switch supplier, “Ray (tired of the switch from hell) DeGiorgio.”

Almost immediately, GM started getting complaints of unexpected stalling from drivers of the Saturn Ion, the first car equipped with the switch. The complaints continued when the switch was used for the Cobalt, which went on sale in 2004. Yet it wasn’t seen as a safety issue. Even if the engine stalled and the power steering went out, engineers reasoned, drivers could still wrestle the cars to the side of the road.

As more complaints came in, GM kept viewing the problem as “annoying but not particularly problematic,” Valukas wrote. “Once so defined, the switch problem received less attention, and efforts to fix it were impacted by cost considerations that would have been immaterial had the problem been properly categorized in the first instance,” his report said.

In a critical failure to link cause and effect — and one that Valukas references often in his report — engineers trying to diagnose the problem didn’t understand that the air bags wouldn’t inflate in a crash if the engines stalled, failing to protect people when they needed it most.

Text Only
Business & Technology
  • Earns United Continental [Duplicate] United Airlines posts 2Q profit, reversing 1Q loss CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines is making money after a slow start to the year.The airline’s net income in the second quarter hit $789 million, topping Wall Street expectations and marking a turnaround from the first quarter when United was the only m

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • GM profit 2Q falls 85% on recall costs DETROIT (AP) — Recall expenses chopped $1.5 billion from General Motors’ bottom line in the second quarter, as it added up the costs of repairs for nearly 30 million cars and set aside funds to compensate victims of small-car crashes.The automaker, w

    July 25, 2014

  • Taiwan plane crash photo Air travel a leap of faith for passengers WASHINGTON (AP) — Airline travel requires passengers to make a leap of faith, entrusting their lives to pilots, airlines, air traffic controllers and others who regulate air travel.Even after a week of multiple tragedies in worldwide aviation, “There

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (with VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Has the iPad lost its swag?

    The company reported this week that sales of its sleek, pricey tablet were down 19 percent from last quarter and 9 percent year-over-year.

    CEO Tim Cook tried to reassure investors that Apple's new partnership with IBM to sell its devices to IBM's corporate customers will help make iPads ubiquitous in the workplace.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stewart McCaskill photo McCaskill settles into new role at shoe store CLINTON — An Oklahoma boy at heart, Stewart McCaskill is settling into Clinton and Brown’s Shoe Fit.The 35-year-old has worked with the Brown’s Shoe Fit company for seven years. His brother-in-law, who manages a Brown’s in Colorado, brought Stewart i

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Earns Mcdonalds [Duplicate] McDonald's profit slips; U.S. sales decline OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) — McDonald’s Corp. said its profit slipped in the second quarter as sales in the U.S. continued to flag.The world’s biggest hamburger chain has been struggling to boost sales in its flagship market amid intensifying competition,

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • SEC poised to end $1 a share for some money funds WASHINGTON (AP) — Regulators are expected to vote Wednesday to end a longtime staple of the investment industry — the fixed $1 share price for money-market mutual funds — at least for some money funds used by big investors.The idea is to minimize the

    July 23, 2014

  • China McDonald's KFC [Duplicate] China meat scandal hits Starbucks, Burger King BEIJING — A suspect meat scandal in China engulfed Starbucks and Burger King today and spread to Japan where McDonald’s said the Chinese supplier accused of selling expired beef and chicken had provided 20 percent of the meat in its chicken nuggets.C

    July 22, 2014 5 Photos

Facebook