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GM shakes up global engineering

Step up: Ken Kelzer introduces the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu last year in his role as executive chief engineer of global full-size and mid-size cars. He is now vice-president of global vehicle components and subsystems.

General Motors ignition switch recall crisis sparks global engineering restructure

24 Apr 2014

GENERAL Motors has restructured its global vehicle engineering division and current chief John Calabrese has elected to retire as the US auto giant works to improve its operations and restore public confidence in the wake of its current ignition switch recall crisis.

GM’s engineering division will be split into two organisations: global product integrity, headed by global chassis engineering chief Ken Morris and global vehicle components and subsystems, which becomes the responsibility of GM Europe powertrain engineering boss Ken Kelzer.

Former GM Holden chairman and now executive vice-president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, Mark Reuss, said the move will deliver “more consistent performance across vehicle programs and address functional safety and compliance in its vehicles”.

“A vehicle is a collection of 30,000 individual parts,” Mr Reuss said. “Fully integrating those parts into cohesive systems with industry-leading quality and safety is key in this customer-driven business.” As GoAuto has reported, GM is working to rebuild customers’ trust in the company, and limit the damage to its reputation, in the wake of an ignition switch recall affecting around 2.6 million small cars and reportedly linked to 13 deaths in North America.

 center imageFrom top: GM global chassis engineering chief Ken Morris and vice president of global vehicle engineering John Calabrese.

The company has dramatically increased its focus on safety since the recall was announced in February – at least 10 years after the company first became aware of the problem, which can affect the safe operation of the car’s airbag systems – and has launched an internal investigation into its failure to recall the faulty ignition switch sooner.

In recent weeks, GM has hired a number of crisis management experts, placed two engineers on paid leave and promoted long-serving GM engineer Jeff Boyer to the newly created position of vice-president of global vehicle safety (overseeing 35 extra ‘product investigators’) as it handles the ignition switch issue, which is now at the centre of government criminal and civil investigations, congressional hearings and class-action lawsuits in the US and Canada.

Mr Reuss said that Mr Calabrese’s departure after more than 33 years of service was “in no way connected” to the company’s internal investigation.

“Under John’s leadership, GM has developed industry-leading vehicles in practically every segment in which we compete,” Mr Reuss said. “He raised the bar in engineering and has us well positioned for the future.

“We thank John for his many contributions – and I thank him for his friendship – and wish him the best.” Under Mr Morris, the new global product integrity organisation will include “vehicle, powertrain and electrical systems engineering as well as vehicle performance, industrial engineering and validation”. It also includes supplier quality.

In a statement, the company said the product integrity division 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”.

As head of global vehicle components and subsystems, Mr Kelzer’s area of responsibility covers “engineering operations, components development, advanced vehicle development and other engineering business initiatives”.

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