GM cans 15 workers in fallout from ignition switches - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

GM cans 15 workers in fallout from ignition switches

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(NBC News) - General Motors, citing what the CEO called a pattern of “misconduct or incompetence,” sacked 15 employees and disciplined a handful of others Thursday because of faulty ignition switches blamed for the deaths of at least 13 people.

CEO Mary Barra told employees at a town hall meeting that an internal report had found incompetence and neglect, but not a cover-up. The automaker took almost a decade to recall as many as 2.6 million cars with bad ignitions that caused some cars to suddenly stall on the road.

“We simply didn’t do our job,” Barra said. “We failed these customers, and we must face up to it, and we must learn from it.”

Of the victims, she said: “I realize there are no words of mine that can ease their grief or their pain.” The company has blamed the defect for 47 crashes.

Barra said the dismissals reached the highest levels of the company. Most were in senior or executive roles, she told reporters.

The company also announced the creation of a compensation fund for victims and their families. It will be overseen by Kenneth Feinberg, who administered payments to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings.

When the faulty switches were weighed down by keys, the ignition could slip out of the on position while the car was on the road, causing the engine to stall, the driver to lose control of power steering and brakes and the airbags to fail to deploy.

Asked whether GM stood by 13 as the total number of deaths attributed to the faulty ignitions, President Dan Ammann said, “Based on all the information we have right now ... that’s the number.”

Barra said that the report found no conspiracy by the corporation to cover up facts. Rather, she said, a “pattern of management deficiencies and misjudgments, often based on incomplete data,” was overlooked as business as usual.

The 15 included some who were removed because of “misconduct or incompetence” or who “acted inappropriately” and others who didn't act with a sense of urgency. Five more employees were disciplined, Barra said.

Among those fired were Ray DeGiorgio, the lead design engineer for the Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switch. He had previously been placed on leave.

The report, paid for by GM, was compiled by former federal prosecutor Anton Valukas, who was hired by the company to get to the bottom of the delay. Congress, regulators and a slew of lawyers hired by victims and their families are also looking into it.

Valukas reviewed 41 million documents and interviewed 230 employees to prepare the report, which Barra said had been shared with “appropriate government officials.” She told employees to expect further recalls.

Over the past few months, GM has aggressively recalled cars. To date, more than 15 million vehicles worldwide have been recalled because of a slew of flaws.

Prior to the release of the report, some GM critics were skeptical that the investigation would offer answers.

“As of right now I don’t trust GM,” said Jayne Rimer, whose daughter, Natasha Weigel, was one of two teenagers killed in 2006 when their Cobalt crashed in Wisconsin. “I hope this internal investigation produces the answers the families are searching for. We deserve to hear what’s gone on in their company — the truth.”

The crisis over the ignition switch recall doesn't seem to have harmed GM’s sales. GM posted a 12.6 percent increase in sales last month, its best showing since August 2008, when the automaker began its descent into bankruptcy.
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