DETROIT, MI- The reorganization of General Motors Co.’s global engineering department is a direct result of the company’s ongoing recall crisis, officials said Tuesday.
Mark Reuss, GM head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said the shakeup, which essentially splits the Detroit-based automaker’s engineering and product development arm into two separate groups, is an attempt to ensure a situation like the ignition switch recall doesn’t happen again.
The two new groups — Global Product Integrity and Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems — will work with one another to “better enable” cross-system integration and reduce variations in work. He also added more changes are to come.
“This is the framework,” Reuss said Tuesday during a conference call with media. “This is the beginning of making it work … there will be other changes.”
The changes also include a shuffle of executives, as John Calabrese, vice president of Global Vehicle Engineering, has elected to retire. Calabrese, who has worked for the automaker for more than 33 years, will remain with the company through August to assist with the transition.
Reuss said Calabrese’s retirement was not tied to the company’s internal investigation into the delayed recall of 2.6 million vehicles due to faulty ignition switches, which is being led by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas. Calabrese, according to Reuss, was “fully supportive” of the changes.
The new executives include Ken Kelzer, 51, currently vice president, GM Europe powertrain engineering, as vice president of Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems; and Ken Morris, 47, executive director of global chassis engineering, being named vice president of Global Product Integrity.
The Global Product Integrity organization, according to Reuss, will focus on vehicle dynamics including ride and handling, steering and braking. Officials will use advanced analysis tools and processes to flag and prevent issues during vehicle development, while also mining field data to react quickly to safety and product quality issues customers may experience.
Morris said the new structuring is about “connecting the dots” and officials “not being siloed” from one another during product development. He said the faulty ignition switches in connection to its current recall crisis would have been a safety issue that would have been flagged “immediately in preproduction.”
“This is something that is foundationally different for General Motors in its entire history,” Reuss said during a conference call Tuesday with reporters. “But I also think can be industry leading as we move into a new era of transportation and vehicles that is very complex.”
Under the restructuring, the recently formed Global Vehicle Safety organization led by newly-appointed Vice President of Global Vehicle Safety Jeff Boyer will be a part of the Global Product Integrity group. Supplier quality also will become part of the new organization.
Earlier this month, GM announced that two engineers had been placed on paid leave due to the company’s ongoing investigation into the recall, which has been linked to at least 13 deaths.
The reorganization, which is effective immediately, is arguably the largest move by the Detroit-based automaker since the initial recall was announced in mid-February.
GM also announced it has hired 35 product safety investigators that are the frontline to address problems. That’s in addition to about 20 investigators GM already has. Reuss said more product safety investigators will be added if needed.
“We feel that just an organizational change is not going to solve everything,” he said. “We have to have the right people with the organization, with the right leadership and with the right processes in place.”
Repairs to fix the millions of vehicles connected to the ignition switch recall are underway, according to GM.
Officials say the company has shipped thousands of kits consisting of ignition switches, ignition cylinders and key sets for older model small cars subject to the recalls that have been linked to at least 13 deaths.
The nearly 2.6 million vehicles affected by the ignition switch recall include 2003-2007 Saturn Ions, 2007-2010 Saturn Skys, 2005-2011 Chevrolet HHRs, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstices, and 2005-10 Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G5 models.
Click here for more on the GM’s ignition switch recall.