The internal investigation General Motors is conducting regarding its response (and responsiveness) to the ignition switch recall might be having its first effects. The company has put two of its engineers on paid leave. According to The Detroit Free Press, this action took place after a briefing by its internal investigator, former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. The engineers haven't been officially identified by GM.

"This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened. It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM," said CEO Mary Barra in the statement. GM recently created a new program called Speak Up for Safety that asks workers for ideas to make vehicles safer.

An early indication that some engineers might be in trouble came during the Senate hearing into the recall. Senator Claire McCaskill singled out a specific engineer for allegedly covering up the problem and claimed that the automaker held back important documents in legal cases. Barra admitted during the questioning that she was waiting for the results of the internal investigation before deciding what further action to take.

Much of the issue can be traced back to a spring that GM changed in its faulty ignition switches, but the part number wasn't altered. Senator McCaskill claims this is a sign of a cover-up. Not changing the number also led to a third round of the recall because the company couldn't identify which cars had properly functioning switches.

Recent reports indicate that regulators believe GM isn't being fully compliant in the investigation. The automaker didn't answer about a third of the 107 questions posed to it by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the organization has levied $28,000 in fines against the company. Scroll down to watch McCaskill's questions to Barra and read the announcement. We've contacted GM for more information about the engineers, and we'll update this story when he hear back.
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GM Creates Speak Up For Safety Program for Employees

Two engineers placed on paid leave as part of ignition switch probe

2014-04-10
DETROIT – General Motors is creating a Speak Up for Safety program to recognize employees for ideas that make vehicles safer, and for speaking up when they see something that could impact customer safety, CEO Mary Barra said today.

"GM must embrace a culture where safety and quality come first," Barra said. "GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so."

Barra spoke at an employee town hall meeting on Thursday, announcing the internal Speak Up for Safety campaign. The campaign is intended to remove perceived and real barriers to candid conversations between employees and their leaders as a step to foster a "safety first" culture.

Reporting issues only matters if there is follow-up - and Barra said the Global Vehicle Safety Group will be accountable to take action or close issues within a prescribed time period.

"We will recognize employees who discover and report safety issues to fix problems that could have been found earlier and identify ways to make vehicles safer," she said. Details will be announced in the next 30 days.

Separately, Barra confirmed two GM engineers have been placed on paid leave following a briefing from Anton Valukas, the former U.S. attorney overseeing an independent investigation into circumstances leading to a safety recall of 2.6 million older GM cars for ignition defects.

"This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened," Barra said. "It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM."

About General Motors Co.
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.


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  • 20 Comments
      Bernard
      • 8 Months Ago
      Punishing an engineer sounds wrong to me. Engineers do what the execs tell them too, chances are the engineers were the one's telling them not do this.
        mapoftazifosho
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Bernard
        These were managing engineers...these were the guys signing off on everything. I'm not certain if they were executive level, but they def weren't just some engineer...
          CarNutMike
          • 8 Months Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          It's a shame that we have to read the comments to get the actual details. Chief Engineer and "BOM Family Owner" makes a LOT more sense.
          Jerry
          • 8 Months Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          One was a vehicle chief engineer who what the program manager for the Cobalt and Cruze. The other is was GM calls a "BOM Family Owner". He is a high level engineer responsible for a family of corporate common parts. This includes the key switch in question. The vehicle chief engineer was directly below Mark Reuss. The BFO was below him. Hopefully they dig into the vehicle chief engineers work a little deeper and notice all the defects he jammed out the door with the Cruze. Hopefully they fire him and send a clear shot over the bow to other managers at his rank.
          Larry Litmanen
          • 8 Months Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          I agree with you these probably weren't some entry level guys, but there's simply no way actual executives did not know this was taking place. Think about it if engineer knows that people may die why would he not communicate it to top, there's no reason they would not let their boss know. The worst that can happen to you is you get fired for making a mistake, these are smart people, they know that killing someone is far more heinous. There's just no way the executive management was not kept in the loop.
          jlauth
          • 8 Months Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          I haven't met many engineers that don't want things done right or buy the book...its just not the way we think. I however have met management that want as many parts out the door as they can get even if quality may suffer.
          Jerry
          • 8 Months Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          Damn auto correct... I swear English is my first language...
        buckfeverjohnson
        • 8 Months Ago
        @Bernard
        Someone should have been the squeaky wheel. And who was it that poo-pooed the $0.57 change to the ignition switch.
      CarNutMike
      • 8 Months Ago
      Blaming a couple engineers is bullsh*t. This was a *management* decision.
        CarNutMike
        • 8 Months Ago
        @CarNutMike
        As Jerry filled in above, the two engineers in question apparently WERE management.
      SloopJohnB
      • 8 Months Ago
      Useless to put them on paid leave. And costly too. They should just continue to be monitored and work like usual.
        Bernard
        • 8 Months Ago
        @SloopJohnB
        You can't investigate if the people you are investigating are still working and still have access to everything.
      mazda_6
      • 8 Months Ago
      What?? Paid leave??? This is ridiculous. If I were Mary Barra, I would have put these guys on unpaid leave. If there were found innocent however, I would reimburse them for the leave, making it a paid leave. But if they were guilty, there should be no reason to pay them. THEY WERE THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE DEATHS! They should be punished. Mary is just way too soft. She needs to be more like Alan Mulally, do every needs to be done to get everything squared away even if the decision may not be popular.
        jlauth
        • 8 Months Ago
        @mazda_6
        I'm sure that management and the bean counters were the "ROOT CAUSE" here. Management could easily pressure and engineer to make a decision he/she didn't want, and if he didn't sent a CYA email...he/she is now the man on the chopping block!
        Quattro_2
        • 8 Months Ago
        @mazda_6
        Of course it's paid! It's the big 3!
      Quest
      • 8 Months Ago
      This company is truly pathetic, De Lorenzo hit the nail on the head in latest column; GM should be broken up into Chevrolet Motor Company and Cadillac Company - just a matter of time. ;-)
      Famsert
      • 8 Months Ago
      Paid leave. How awful.
      Adub
      • 8 Months Ago
      This exact scenario can be copied and pasted into a plethora of corporate malfunction environments around the world and US unfortunately. I personally worked on a project once when upper management did not care that a critical part to the function of a product did not work. It was touted and preached by them as gospel this is new…fresh……we have to do this lets make it work. This bright idea failed in proof of concept…….5 plus prototype revisions later (beat the dead horse) and even failed when preached by the upper management….my direction and idea is sound it will work in production. There were other tested working solutions we presented but they differed from the proven bad idea we must do and sternly dismissed. Guess what thousands of dollars of tooling and millions invested in the product production did not make it any better. This “great idea” blew up in their face so the engineer was blamed and strategically demoted until he resigned. Even better a product manager who had nothing to do with any of it was fired after basically having a live grenade thrown in his lap day one on the job inheriting the project. Best of all the person who made the decision we had to stick to still has their job and cost the company millions in other failed decisions. It never changes when it is always put as much people between you and bad decisions to avoid personal blame. Taking risks are the nature of business but when millions are invested and solid data not based on the highest paid persons opinion throws up glaring “DON’T DO it” it should signal more common sense. On the short side they save money and put it on their review that oh man look at what an amazing person I am as a leader. In reality it’s a shellfish short sided business decision that should go against any company of reputable standards long term goals. On GM’s side they don’t care because 6 months or a year from now the American mind forget it. We will go back to buying their cars…….and they know it…….and they will continue to do this exact thing OVER AND OVER AGAIN. It’s the same GM as they all park in the same spots, sit at the same desks, and talk the same talk. I personally will try my best to never buy a GM vehicle for the rest of my days. No car manufacture is perfect and I can’t walk everywhere so likely the car I drive will have some kind of drama associated with is brand. I see it as GM already got money from me but fortunately I can chose not to give them any willingly. Sadly I love the 67 camaro…….so I guess I have to pour one out for the death of a bucket list garage spot.
      NAIF S
      • 8 Months Ago
      Well, if the big shots needed a scape goat, they must think 2 are better than 1.
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