GM Creates Executive Position To Oversee Safety

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/MCT) -

General Motors Co. on Tuesday appointed Jeff Boyer as the company’s safety leade,r on the heels of an expanded recall and investigations into how the automaker continued to sell small cars with a potentially defective ignition switches for more than a decade.

Boyer’s title will be vice president in charge of global vehicle safety, a newly created position under the leadership of CEO Mary Barra.

His first priority is to quickly identify and resolve product safety issues, starting today, with frequent updates to Barra, senior management and the board of directors.

In a video released Monday, Barra apologized for the automaker’s handling of the recall of 1.6 million cars with the potentially defective ignition switches. She also said Delphi Corp., the supplier, is boosting production, to get replacement parts to dealers sooner. Dealers still won’t be able to begin installing the parts until the second week of April.

“Something went wrong with our process in this instance and terrible things happened,” Barra said, in the video posted on GM’s website. “As a member of the GM family, and as a mom with a family of my own, this really hits home for me. And we have apologized. But that is just one step in the journey to resolve this.”

The recall covers 2005-07 Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5s, 2003-07 Saturn Ions and other vehicles. The automaker says the key in the ignition switch can be jostled into accessory mode, disabling the power steering and deactivating air bags. GM is advising owners to remove heavy objects from their key chains until the ignition system can be repaired, on the theory that the chain’s weight increases the risk.

“Our system for deciding and managing recalls is going to change because of this,” Barra said in the video Monday. “And we are using this opportunity to change much more about our business. We are redoubling our pending product reviews, bringing them forward and resolving them quickly.”

Twelve deaths and 31 crashes have been linked to the defective switches, while one independent engineering study suggested the number of fatalities might be higher. At least four investigations are underway and a number of lawsuits have been filed.

The automaker Monday also said it will take a $300 million charge against its first-quarter earnings to reflect the cost of the ignition switch recall, and also for three new safety recalls announced Monday. None of the new recalls for a host of vehicles involve fatalities.

Boyer has spent 40 years in a number of engineering and safety positions at GM. He will now ensure the safe development of GM’s vehicle systems around the world and validate their performance. He will also be responsible for handling all recalls.

“Jeff’s appointment provides direct and ongoing access to GM leadership and the Board of Directors on critical customer safety issues,” Barra said in a statement.

“This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader, so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability. If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them.”

Boyer will report to John Calabrese, head of global vehicle engineering, and become a member of the global product development team led by Mark Reuss, who also oversees purchasing and the supply chain.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers in the vehicles they drive,” said Boyer. “Today’s GM is committed to this, and I’m ready to take on this assignment.”

Boyer joined GM in 1974 as a co-op student and moved up the engineering ranks. His most recent position since 2011 was executive director of engineering operations and systems development.

Before that, he was in charge of global interior engineering, where he was responsible for the performance and certification of GM vehicle safety and crashworthiness.