He was right, though he didn’t know it at the time. In 2006, DeGiorgio had signed off on a change that increased the force needed to turn the key. But when asked in 2009 and later under oath, DeGiorgio denied making a change. “To this day, in informal interviews and under oath, DeGiorgio claims not to remember authorizing the change to the ignition switch or his decision at the same time not to change the switch’s part number,” Valukas wrote.
Keeping the same number prevented GM investigators from learning what happened for years, according to Valukas.
A ‘BOMBSHELL’ AND FINALLY A RECALL
By 2011, GM’s outside lawyers were warning that the company could be facing costly verdicts for failing to fix the air bag problem. Company lawyers sought another investigation, but the engineer assigned to the case discounted the ignition switch theory.
The probe became stuck after two years with no results.
Then came what GM’s outside lawyers called a “bombshell.” An expert working for a law firm that was suing GM X-rayed two switches from separate model years and discovered they were different — GM’s first knowledge of DeGiorio’s change to the switch. Even so, GM’s recall committee wasn’t immediately told about the fatal accidents, so it waited for several months before it started recalling the cars in February, Valukas wrote.
Barra told GM employees Thursday that Valukas’ report was thorough, tough and “deeply troubling.” She said 15 people — including Ray DeGiorgio — were dismissed from the company and five others disciplined, and she outlined changes to make sure such a problem doesn’t happen again.
But some have their doubts.
“If GM operated in the manner described over a full decade, then there are many more safety problems out there today,” said Jere Beasley, an attorney who is suing GM on behalf of victims.