General Motors Co. chose not to use a more robust ignition-switch part in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars while they were being designed, a decision that may have led to deaths, safety advocates said.
The hundreds of pages of documents released by lawmakers last week shed new light on General Motors Co.’s more than decade-long failure to respond to auto-safety complaints, underscoring the struggle ahead for Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra as she seeks to refocus on the company’s new fleet of cars.
For about two years, General Motors Co. engineer Brian Stouffer tried to figure out why faulty ignition switches now linked to at least 13 deaths were causing cars to stall. His quest was thwarted by uncooperative colleagues, inaccurate data and a rotating cast of managers.
General Motors Co. has placed two engineers, Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman, on paid leave for their roles in events leading to the recall of 2.59 million small cars with potentially defective ignition switches tied to at least 13 deaths, said two people familiar with the matter.
General Motors Co., in the midst of recalling 2.6 million small cars for an ignition-switch flaw that can deactivate air bags, also may have an air-bag defect connected to deadly accidents in its Chevrolet Impala, a safety group said.
General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra fielded pointed questions and accusations from U.S. senators, with one saying GM had a “culture of coverup” and another predicting it may face criminal liability.