Another GM Engineering Exec Retires

May 6, 2014

On Monday, General Motors announced the retirement of another high-ranking engineer who took command in the investigation of faulty ignition switches that was later linked to 13 deaths.

Jim Federico, who has been working for the Detroit auto maker for 36 years, elected to retire to pursue other interests outside the auto industry. In 2010, the 56-year old took the helm as GM’s chief engineer for global subcompact cars, SUVs and electric vehicles. He then assumed the position of executive director of global vehicle integration for the automaker in September 2013, up until he left his post on Monday.

According to Jim Cain, spokesman of GM, Federico’s retirement was a personal choice and had nothing to do with the internal investigation on why it took the automaker nearly a decade to recall 2.6 million vehicles that possibly have faulty ignition switches and cylinders.

The said faulty ignition switches cause the key to slip out of the “on” position, causing the engines’ to shut down and disabling the vehicles’ air bags and other equipment. Later on, GM linked the problem to 13 deaths. However, one trial lawyer noted that he has 53 wrongful death lawsuits on his desk against the number one US automaker due to the said problem.

The company admitted that it was aware of the faulty switches for more than a decade, yet it only issued a recall in February this year.

Federico is the second high-ranking officer to suddenly leave his post in GM. Last month, global engineering chief John Calabrese, whom Federico had reported to, announced his retirement after 33 years at GM. His department will be split into two organizations referred to as Global Product Integrity and Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems, which will be led by newly assigned executives. GM said that Calabrese would hold his post until August to assist in the transition.

Federico briefly reported to CEO Mary Barra in 2011. Back then Barra was the head of the global product development of GM until she took the top post in January this year. Federico was then placed under John Calabrese when the division of product development was reorganized in July 2012. On the same month, Federico joined the team investigating the faulty ignition switches.

According to GM records, under the direction of Federico, the investigative team looked at the ignition switches of GM vehicles at a junkyard and asked the assistance of Delphi Automotive, which was the switches’ supplier.

It was through the said process that the team figured out in October 2013 that there had been a change in the design of the switches with the approval of Ray DeGiorgio, the lead switch engineer. Documents show that DeGiorgio first ordered the change in April 2006 and then agreed to do so without issuing new part numbers a month later. Traditionally, new parts are given identification numbers for easier tracking.
DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, chief engineer of Chevrolet Cobalt, were recently put on paid leave for their roles in the issue.

GM said that it is expecting for the internal investigation to conclude by the end of this month.

Photo credit: ekidreki / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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