Meet The "Lone Engineer" GM Is Blaming All Its Troubles On

Tyler Durden's picture

Back in 2011 Goldman, when the FDIC-insured bank holding company with no deposits, was slapped with the biggest at the time SEC penalty for shorting CDOs it had sold to clients, it started a trend of scapegoating all its evils on a lone, then 20-something individual, Fabrice Tourre, who seemingly had "worked alone" and whose actions were not supervised by anyone: the chain of responsibility started and ended with him. Naturally, nobody went to jail. A few years later, stuck in the biggest scandal of its post-bankruppcy existence involving over 20 million recalls in just the first 6 months of 2014 alone, GM has decided that what worked for Goldman should work for it too, and as the WSJ reports, is "pinning of a decadelong failure to recall defective cars on a lone engineer."


Unfortunately for GM, an organization that is far more politically charged than Goldman, it is "running into skepticism from lawmakers who say GM documents show dozens of people were alerted to ignition-switch defects during the past decade."

But before we get into the details of what is set to be even more political theater, just who is this lone engineer?

Meet Raymond DeGiorgio, said lone engineer:

From the WSJ:

Mr. DeGiorgio joined GM in June 1991 and worked on a variety of different switches before being assigned to handle the 2003 Saturn Ion and 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt switches, according to his deposition in a lawsuit involving a Georgia woman who died in a Cobalt crash. At the time, GM had just brought switch design back in-house from suppliers to combat warranty issues and improve quality control.

The Valukas report portrays Mr. DeGiorgio as struggling to fix problems with his design, and at one point describing it as "the switch from hell."

In November 2004, Mr. DeGiorgio received an email from an engineer in a GM team that works on high-performance versions of its cars, who said the group had noticed stalls on a test track when a driver's knee "slightly" grazed the key fob. Despite being informed of the problem again, Mr. DeGiorgio made no changes to the ignition switch.


A separate warning about problems with ignition switches came from Laura J. Andres, a GM employee, who told 10 GM engineers including Mr. DeGiorgio of her experience with a Chevrolet Impala that stalled after she went over a bump in the road in August 2005.

We will have more to say about Ms. Andres shortly, who is now being presented as an early whistleblower in the GM scandal. For now, however, the attention appears to be on DeGiorgio who appears to be the fall guy designated by everyone to be thrown under the proverbial GM truck.

Mr. Valukas's probe concluded Raymond DeGiorgio in April 2006 decided to institute a design change of an ignition switch that was causing cars to stall, and approved no change to the part identification number. That made the change difficult to track, and delayed efforts to understand why air bags in some of the vehicles weren't deploying in crashes, the report found.


The engineer was one of 15 employees dismissed from the company earlier this month.

Yet lawmakers appear skeptical that unlike in the case of Goldman, where one person effectively took all the blame, that the same is applicable with GM. Among those who expressed incredulity with the official version were both republican and democrat representatives.

The internal probe portrays a relatively low-ranking engineer as responsible for approving a switch design that didn't meet GM specifications and for concealing vital information that could have led the company to recall defective vehicles sooner.


"GM is trying to [argue] 'he made this mistake alone,' " said Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), chairman of the House panel probing the recall. "Several mistakes were made along the way. Of 210,000 people, why didn't anyone catch it?"


* * *

Lawmakers say unreleased testimony from Mr. DeGiorgio and an email released on Wednesday by Fred Upton (R., Mich.) show that ignition switch problems had been flagged as a safety issue within GM in 2005. Mr. Blumenthal said he has talked with former GM employees who are highly skeptical that a person at Mr. DeGiorgio's level could have pulled off such a change.


Mr. DeGiorgio told congressional investigators he thought that another engineer would have had to sign off on the parts change, a House aide said on Thursday. That appears to fit with documentation the committee has received showing another engineer had signed off on a design change requested by Mr. DeGiorgio.


Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D, Ill.) told Ms. Barra on Wednesday that Mr. DeGiorgio had told the committee's staff that he met with his superiors in February 2002 and told them the ignition switch would be delayed.


"So, Ms. Barra, is it your belief that one engineer, Mr. DeGiorgio, unilaterally approved a part that had been plagued by problems from the start?" Ms. Schakowsky asked.


"He was the one responsible for it," Ms. Barra replied. When pressed on Wednesday whether Mr. DeGiorgio could have unilaterally approved the ignition-part change, Ms. Barra insisted that "he was the one responsible for it."

And what has Ms. Barra's "responsibility" at the time, or now for that matter: would it be to justify the highest shareholder returns no matter the cost, even if the cost include an unknown number of lives lost in order to cut production costs, all the while ignoring quality controls and certainly internal whistleblowers? That question remains to be answered.

Perhaps hurting Barra's attempts to bury the matter while blaming it all on a single scapegoat is that, unlike Goldman, some members of Congress actually understand the GM internal dealings, having worked there previously:

Rep. Bill Johnson (R., Ohio), who worked for an auto-parts supplier before joining the House, also challenged the assertion that Mr. DeGiorgio could have acted alone. "Would it be reasonable that the chief—the vehicle chief engineer—would have known about this situation?" Mr. Johnson asked Ms. Barra. Mr. Johnson also alluded on Wednesday to a May 2005 email that outlined a "customer concern" about the ignition switch sent to vehicle chief engineer Doug Parks, among others. That email hasn't been released to the public.


Ms. Barra said the chief engineer "has to count on people doing their job" because "there are 30,000 parts on a car."

Based on that statement she certainly appears qualified to run the bailed out car maker. However, what casts doubts on her defense of management's handling of the situation is that it was nearly a decade ago when whistleblowers warning of ignitioning issues first appeared. Whistleblowers like Laura Andres whose concerns were, obviously, ignored.

Ms. Andres subsequently warned that the problem appeared to be with the design of the Impala's ignition switch, and noted that a GM technician had told her other employees had complained about a similar problem with the Pontiac Solstice. The Solstice shared components with the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt and other compact vehicles among 2.6 million recalled earlier this year to fix defective ignition switches. "I think this is a serious safety problem, especially if this switch is on multiple programs," Ms. Andres wrote in one of a chain of emails released by the House panel.... Mr. DeGiorgio replied to Ms. Andres in an Aug. 31, 2005 email that the switch in her Impala is "completely different" than the one used on the Solstice. He says he has monitored reports and hadn't found any similar issues as she described

A prior WSJ article has further details on Andres' warnings as early as 2005:

Laura J. Andres, told GM engineers in 2005 that the Chevrolet Impala she was driving shut off after she went over a bump in the road. In a subsequent August 2005 email she warned that the problem appeared to be the design of the Impala's ignition switch, and noted a GM technician who looked at her car said other employees had complained about a similar problem with the Pontiac Solstice—a small car that shared components with the 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt and other compact vehicles now known to possess a deadly defect.


Ms. Andres urged that engineers consider changing the part. "I'm thinking big recall. I was driving 45 mph when I hit the pothole and the car shut off, and I had a car driving behind me that swerved around me. I don't like to imagine a customer driving their kids in the back seat, on I-75, and hitting a pothole, in rush hour traffic."

By now it is fully clear that while it has been caught red-handed, and the resulting surge in recalls is merely an attempt to finally do the right thing even if it truly exposes the corrupt culture at the politically-charged carmaker not to mention its approach to creating a quality product - one of the main reasons it had to file Chapter 11 in the first place - the only thing GM cared about is generating a shareholder return (especially when faced with numerous activist hedge funds: recall that GM is in the top 5 most widely held stocks by hedge funds).

Politicians don't know the answer either:

"I remain unconvinced there wasn't an effort to 'cover up' bad decisions to avoid liability," said Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), the panel's chairman. It is probing why GM waited a decade to recall cars with a deadly safety defect involving Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other compact cars. Other lawmakers cited parts of an internal report that suggested GM managers had feared they could lose their jobs by raising safety concerns.


The internal report quotes GM quality manager Steven Oakley as saying that he was "reluctant to push hard on safety issues because of his perception that his predecessor had been pushed out of his job for doing just that."


Ms. Barra said Mr. Oakley is still employed by GM, and is raising new safety concerns. "We are taking it very seriously," she said. Ms. Barra launched a "Speak Up for Safety Program" and plans to reward employees for raising concerns about vehicle safety. "I am personally getting information from employees," she said.

GM has "quality engineers"? How quaint.

In conclusion, it goes without saying that the only real question on the table, when the public tires of this latest congressional song and dance, is whether GM's legacy approach of burying defects under the rug will finally be fixed even if it means major net income losses on a recurring basis (as opposed to the current allegedly "non-recurring" recall charges), or once the current crisis blows over GM will resort to its old standby of not recalling any potentially deadly vehicles as it means even more lost sales and further credibility hits.

In a world in which failure is rewarded with bailouts and where risk in general has been wiped out from the economic calculus thanks to the Fed, we already know the answer.

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Dr. Engali's picture

Poor guy looks like he needs a nail gun.

lordylord's picture

So incompetent that they can't fix a switch,  Good thing the tax-payers (with a gun to their head) bailed them out.  Who needs a free market?

tmosley's picture

I thought the engineer's name was Waddel A. Reed.

TeamDepends's picture

This is what happens when you take more than your share of donuts.

nuclearsquid's picture

no.. he is probably 'that guy' in the office.  You know the one who smells like cheese, or they caught fapping in the bathroom.


Occident Mortal's picture

By offering a scapegoat GM just further damages its brand.


Why not take it on the chin and accept corporate responsibility as befitting a 21st Century corporation.



GM really is trapped in 1985 and this whole case makes them look like the bloated and ridiculous government motors that they really are.



Fuck you Schumpeter!

icanhasbailout's picture

Congrats to Mr. DeGeorgio, future owner of GM, and to his lucky future lawyer.

DaveyJones's picture

is like blaming a decade long war on a single president?

jbvtme's picture

yellen needs to check out this guy's barber...

whotookmyalias's picture

Meet Mr. Oliver North.  "Sir, I am not a potted plant!"

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

This poor guy was probably close to retirement, so the execs thought they'd kill two birds with one stone. Create a scapegoat and save a little $$$ for a new bonus.

Headbanger's picture

The whole story stinks because this "lone engineer" did the design of the switch but where was the QC feed back from manufacturing and product support when the problems were reported!?

Upper management just HAD to know about the problem from these "real world" organizations in GM.

So there's simply no way this one engineer can take all the blame!

SamAdams's picture

The real problem is that every auto mfr is using "drive by wire solutions" for throttle, braking and steering.  I don't know about you, but I am not comfortable with letting a computer (or even a logic free circuit) provide the input to throttle, brake and direction.  Air bag not deploying is a problem, but the fact that the car shut down and control was lost, is the bigger picture.

Joe Sixpack's picture

Is not the proper term for such an individual a "rogue" engineer? Or would he have ot work for Nissan?

NoDebt's picture

I doubt GM's claim that they "had a hard time figuring out why air bags sometimes did not deploy".  Cars have had data acqusition and logging built into their PCM (Powertrain Control Module- basically just a computer that runs everything like the fuel injection, ignition, transmission shifts, etc.) since the OBDII standard was adopted in most GM cars around 1995.  It also records things like if the Anti-lock brake system is activated or... IF AN AIRBAG DEPLOYS.  

Even if the cars PCM shuts off by turning the key off (they never completely turn off unless you disconnect the battery) YOU WOULD STILL KNOW THAT EVERYTHING TURNED OFF BEFORE AN ACCIDENT HAPPENED.  The data log would just STOP while recording that the car was going 50 MPH or whatever it's state was at the instant the key was turned off.

I know a little about this because I've done tuning work on performance-modified late model cars (including a bunch of GM stuff), including hacking into the PCM with specialized tuning/reprogramming software.  These systems were already fairly sophisticated by the mid 90s.  Today, the number of things the car's computer(s) are plugged into and the stuff they can do is BREATHTAKING.

Lois Lerner's emails disappearing is more believable than GM "not knowing" about this problem.  They knew.  Damned straight they knew.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

In 2009 there was a fatal crash that killed a family in San Diego which led to the massive Toyota recall ( floor mats slipping). It was amusing that some idiot tried to cash in too claiming the same thing had happened to him. The data recorder nailed him. He was driving at high speeds and randomly hitting the brake to simulate the issue. Stupid schmuck should have consulted an engineer before attempting such a scam.


GCT's picture

Spot on NoDebt.  This was all about the cost to repair the vehicles versus recalling them.  The recall still would not happen if the courts did not get involved.  Just like the bankers so many here hate this decision was all about money.  GM was bailed out at our expense and ever since the media and for that matter car magazines tout these pices of shit as cutting edgeworth your money.  GM finance ie alled is making 0% loans with nothing down, zero interest, and sales tax paid for up to 7 years.  Yah gotta be crazy to finance a vehicle 4 years after the regular warrnty period. The new sub-prime is the auto business right now.  Several reporters in Detriot have actually been fired for actually writing they would prefer a Toyota over these vehicles and the Chrysler 200.

GM could care less about you and I.  The bottom line is long before the curren tCEO or for that matter this guy who designed this stuff is presented for slaughter, GM dealers and management knew of this problem and continued to install this crap that caused accidents and worse killed people.  The cost to repair it was too high so they all made a decision to blow it off.

NoDebt you are correct those on board system CPU's most likely did record the error and the dealer reported them.  Now who do you think will be footing the bill to repair them all.  If you gussed the taxpayer, You win the prize.  We already lost 12 billion on this deal alone.  GM will actually get federal money before this administration allows GM to fail once again.  Of course the Fed will do it in the shadow realm by purchasing GM stock or just type some numbers on a computer and sent the Email to the bankers. For those that did not know the interest rate for this will be 6% to the Fed.  We taxpayers just get to bend over and take it in the ass once again.

Cost analysis was done long ago and they kept it secret when the decision was made not to do the repairs.  Not to be down on just GM but all of them do it.  What pisses me off is the media ran with Toyota being fucked up for months for one problem and GM the story is mentioned at the end of the program and then buried .  Most of this would not be happening except it effects so many GM vehicles and the media and no longer bury it.  I will wager the analysis was done before this CEO was even being considered for the job. 

I MISS KUDLOW's picture

this guy joined in 1991, our chevys in the 80's were catastrophes haven't ever gone back and will never go back i'll bike walk or drive radioactive japanese cars worse case

IndyPat's picture

How's about a red hot Tesla!
Perfectly safe.

If you wear your asbestos jump suit.

Tabarnaque's picture

GM = Garbage Motor. Who buys that crap. It blows my mind that some people would make a conscious decision to buy that crap.

Son of Loki's picture

He did can tell....Guilty!....look at that look on his face... he obviously  Did It!


h... e was probably the sole engineer for the Fuki Nucular Plant deisgn also....


Bandito! ...out the door! ... and give him 1 Nail Gun as his severence package.


[PS: Hopefully he keep copies of all those letters, emails and other info he sent to the upper management. Hopefully his computer doesn't "crash" or he destroys/hammers out the hard disk].

TBT or not TBT's picture

UAW Motors anyone?  Not in this household.   They helped put Obama over the top not once but twice.  No problem buying an "American" car not touched by union traitors.  

Joe Davola's picture

ISO 9000 doesn't result in a safer product.

rtalcott's picture was never REALLY supposed provides a framework to attempt to do well whatever it is that you want to do...if you want to build and ship shit you can do it ISO compliant...

whotookmyalias's picture

LOL, all it does is provide a framework where you have documented processes and follow them.  Maybe it helps lead towards better quality systems, but it by itself doesn't guarantee anything other than a nice certificate you can hang on your wall.


Edit: "pretend to follow them"..Haha.

rtalcott's picture

A BIG X IV...most people are drones and don't get it.

Headbanger's picture

I've seen ISO 9000 be moar of a curse than a blessing because having a process "blessed off" by it is often seen as no more need for individual responsibilities to think or do differently.

rtalcott's picture

You can do that with any comes down to (ALWAYS) senior management's commitment to doing thing right...ALL Problems are People Problems and ultimately ALL Problems are Management Problems.  I have seen it done right and wrong...even the best systems won't work if you have people who do not want to make them work...

CPL's picture

It only allows for insurance of a well documented death trap and people don't understand how far the rot in the system has gone over 60 years.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

@ Occident Moral: "By offering a scapegoat GM just further damages its brand".

Correct.  What they are essentially saying is:  "We had NO reliable control points and processes in place for the development of said switches".  Guess what, bucko... it still blows back to management. 

And the fact that these weasels are once again abrogating their responsibilities, means that the place is rotten to the core.  Time to sell GM to the Chinese (reverse takeover), so they can sanitize the company and the city.

ParkAveFlasher's picture

Drone his ass!  Drone his ass!  USA!  USA!

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

With all these dumb-ass "reality" shows, you'd think one of the networks would do "The Running Man" already. Meet the first contestant...

tonyw's picture

yes the "20-something individual" has clearly had a very hard life that has aged him, we should feel sorry ...

SofaPapa's picture

Anyone still buying GM cars deserves what they get at this point.  Pathetic.

TBT or not TBT's picture

Anyone  buying UAW cars deserves an Obamacare bronze plan served by their local county hospital emergency room packed with illegal aliens.  

nom deplune's picture

Hell, they haven't been able to fix their daytime running lights issue - a switch is way more complicated.

Check it out sometime - most vehicles coming at you with  burned out DRL will be a GM truck.

CPL's picture

It's not a question of a switch being designed, in ISO certification of any released product it has to go through an Army of hundreds of people to be cleared as 'designed and shipped'.  The whole point of process driven engineering is there are about 50 safety nets to catch a problem before it ends up in a dealership.  Unless they haven't got an ISO standard that's being followed, which also means none of their insurance agreements are worth anything.  (can't get insurance for a company for liability if you don't have a process to point to inorder to insure.)

If this were a one man shop building cars in a garage, the GM argument would be valid.  Since GM is a multinational Conglomerate with a lateral monopoly on parts, labour (slave in some cases), insurance industry hooks and banking as a financial vechicle to offer 0.9% on the sales of their cars.

Their idea of 'that guy did it' doesn't pass mustard.  If they as a company cannot make safe cars by process and design, the Engineering associations of the world should bar them from any manufacturing and revoke all allowances and professional practices loaned to that company.

That's how things get built in a world of 7 billion people.  Very, very, very carefully.  Unless the company doesn't have a 'QA' department.  It should be known that the same company influences other items like power productions in various fields and that 'switch' has been 'reused' as a design baseline in many other 'power production' situations.  I believe China is busy trying to hammer together something as fast as possible right now with some of the borrowed deisgn work in the world's largest nuclear facility.

And it's one thing when it's cars, someone crashes and dies.  It's a tragedy.  When it's a reactor.  That's called an ELE...speaking of which Fukushima blew it's guts out a couple of times over the past week in addition to the ice wall melting (go figure tropical climate and they are building ice castles)


Those same switches are also in Humvee's, Planes, Trains, etc...there are maybe eight people on earth that design ignition switches for mass production.  So this whole GM switch business isn't close to over.

rtalcott's picture

EXACTLY!  NFW did one guy do this...someone needs to read their SOPs covering Change Control...this is absolute nonsense.

whotookmyalias's picture

Let me chime in one more time. ISO9000 doesn't guarantee anything. Period.


Now automotive have been under a tighter standard, TS16949, which does lead towards better product quality, but I have audited hunderds of companies over the years that are "certified".  Certified only means you have documented standards and can fool someone into thinking you follow them.  Good companies can and do benefit from it. YMMV

CPL's picture

If they don't spend the time, people power and money...then it doesn't happen.  What does happen though is the blame game and finger pointing.  When what should be happening is a complete stop to all development and manufacturing, then a heavy process review to figure out what fucked up.  Then they fix it the step that's broken.  Do a couple of test runs.  Then turn it all back on.

I'm not seeing that anywhere in any business anymore.  It might be 15 years since the last time it happened.  In the mean while it's stuck on "Cut twice, measure once".

centerline's picture

It has been my experience over many years in engineering that behind most epic fuckups there is a business degree person ramrodding shit through the system.  Same as the Challenger space shuttle "accident."

Every one of them are happy to tell engineers what to do behind the scenes (and even attempt to force them), and when they wind up on the witness stand say "I am not an engineer, it wasn't my call."

If this guy is guilty, there is good chance it is because he didn't do the right thing... which might have been to quit.

Yeah, he could be bad engineer.  There are lots of them out there.  But, usually, engineers who understand the life safety aspects of the work they do tend to be pretty straight up about risks.  Nobody wants the sort of liability that comes from messes like this.

CPL's picture

Exactly, there are bad engineers but they are still engineers.  They wear the iron ring and understand that if they suck ass at building something, then they can do QA.  If they suck at QA, maybe they are good with CAD management.  There are only about a thousand holes in engineering someone can climb into to help a process along to deliver a safe product to market.  Might not be good at everything, but every engineer I've met is good at something and it's matter of proper placement.

However the people that pay for it in the end aren't the customers either, they have legal recourse they can follow through on and about twenty layers of critics, reviews, test drives and news articles.  The consumer is hedged up the wazoo. 

The people that get eaten ass up by this type of thing are the dealerships that pay a fortune to hang another companies shingle infront of their door.  Hard staying in business if being sabotaged by the people you are doing business with.  If I were them I'd sue the shit out of GM. 

Can't sell cars if nothing is safe and all the inventory is recalled.

(...and I'll throw in the garage mechanics that have to listen to the customer.  They are frontline to the auto industry of poor product ownership.  Less in the case of the customer and more because the builder of the car isn't following process.  My poor mechanic has to listen to the same story everyday for two years on the same brand.  On the bright side though, any time I want to buy a car I talk to him.  He know's what car never enters his shop.)

CheapBastard's picture

centerline reminds me of when HMO's tell doctors what they can and cannot do an dyet when the patient dies or has a complication the HMO will claim, "the doctor has the final say." My neighbor is a doctor and I always hear an earful but I must say he is right 99% of the time about those things. Upper management, administrators, politicans, etc have no business in the engineering room [or operating room for medicine things].

Canadian Dirtlump's picture

A number of years ago I did some consulting work in 2 auto parts plants in Windsor Ontario. The remarkable thing was, in both places, numerous managers, unprompted always told me the same thing:


If a batch of parts came in out of spec, the auto manufacturer buyers would always, ALWAYS take the same stance - how much of a discount can we get. Not give us ones that work, but give us the bad ones for a discount. Every time.

CPL's picture

The entire world is built on lowest build, worst idea.  Do that for around 100 years and apply the same 'quality' standards to every functioning industry, guess what happens?  Turns into a point nothing is reliable and you hope to christ you aren't the 'lucky' one that learns of the fatal flaw in mass production.

The only reason anyone ever hears about it at all is because if it's in consumer goods which are common place, you don't even want to guess what keeps the lights on.

San Onofre Nuclear plant...because the part needed died with the man that built it.  A stick and a plastic bag is the fix.  I understand it's still the fix.  Multiply this attitude by everything that fly's, moves and keeps the lights on.  Cheap and lousy parts run it all.

StychoKiller's picture

Speaking as a former Quality Engineer, I can only state that companies always give "lip service" to quality issues raised by all employees, especially when such an issue might impact some CEO's compensation package.  Nothing will change until Quality Engineers have the power to shut down production lines.

Grande Tetons's picture

GM looked through their data base to find a swarthy skinned cat to pin this on. Not too swarthy....but just swarthy enough. 

Hey, we got this guy with an Italian sorta name that looks like an Arab. Bingo!!! We got our guy. 

CH1's picture

Probably very close to the truth.

Grande Tetons's picture

Well, yeah...a black man...too black would be racisct. A white guy...well that just can not happen. A Chinese guy...well no...they are too good at math. An Arab looking guy without all the baggage of an Arab name...Hussein....this poor fucker fit the bill.