Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Business
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

A warning unheeded: GM employee saw 'serious safety problem' 8 1/2 years before latest recall

WASHINGTON - General Motors employee Laura Andres was driving a 2006 Chevrolet Impala home when she hit a bump in the road. The engine stalled, and the Impala came to a dead stop. The car behind her had to swerve to avoid a collision. Andres took the car into the shop, and a technician identified the most likely culprit as a faulty ignition switch.

In an email to 11 GM colleagues, she wrote: "I think this is a serious safety problem ... I'm thinking big recall."

Andres wrote the email Aug. 30, 2005. The Impala was finally recalled Monday — eight and a half years after she sounded the alarm. GM said a key with too much weight on it can cause the switch to move from "run" to "accessory" and stall the engine.

Still, Andres warning came back to haunt GM Wednesday in a congressional hearing into faulty ignition switches that have been linked to 13 deaths and have forced GM to recall 2.6 million small cars, such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., confronted GM Chief Executive Mary Barra with Andres' email.

"I was driving 45 mph when I hit the pothole and the car shut off," Andres wrote. "I don't like to imagine a customer driving with their kids in the back seat, on I-75 and hitting a pothole, in rush hour traffic."

Upton asked Barra what GM would do with such an email if it were sent today. Barra said the company would "take immediate action" if a faulty part caused the car to stall. She said GM's worldwide recall Monday of 3.4 million large cars, including 2006-2014 Impalas, showed how the company now reacts.

It was less responsive in 2005. Andres' warning was brushed off by GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio, who replied that he had recently driven an '06 Impala and "did not experience this condition." He also noted that the Impala had "a completely different column/ignition switch" than the ones that were causing the Pontiac Solstice and other small GM cars to stall.

An internal GM investigation, conducted by former prosecutor Anton Valukas and released to the public June 5, concluded that DeGiorgio alone approved the use of switches in the small cars that didn't meet company specifications. It also found that years later he ordered a change to a new switch without alerting anyone else at GM. DeGiorgio was one of 15 GM employees dismissed in connection with the recall.

GM declined to disclose any information about Andres' position with the company when she wrote the email.

__________________________________________________

AP Business Writers Marcy Gordon in Washington and Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this story

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Sudden Surge: Flood of 2014
Opportunity Magazine — The Bakken
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media

Canadian Mortgage Rates