, seeking to button down its operations in the wake of an embarrassing recall investigation, will split global vehicle engineering into two new organizations separately tasked with achieving top-notch vehicle dynamics and better executing product development.
“A vehicle is a collection of 30,000 individual parts. Fully integrating those parts into cohesive systems with industry-leading quality and safety is key in this customer-driven business,” Mark Reuss, executive vice president-Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, says in a statement announcing the decision.
The reorganization shakes up the management ranks, with the promotion of two engineering executives to head the units and the retirement of another longtime engineering leader.
A spokesman says John Calabrese, a 33-year GM engineering veteran and vice president of the newly split Global Vehicle Engineering, will move up his planned retirement as a result of the restructuring. Calabrese will remain with GM through August to assist with the transition, GM says.
Kenneth Morris, who joined GM from parts supplierin 1989, will lead the first of the two new groups, Global Product Integrity. Morris previously worked as head of global chassis engineering and has served as executive director of GM’s Global Vehicle Performance, Proving Grounds and Test Labs.
Aimed at putting GM at the head of the industry with respect to vehicle dynamics such as ride and handling, steering and braking, Global Product Integrity first was revealed last week by GM CEO Mary Barra.
Barra said the group would focus on safety performance “and ensure that a situation like the ignition-switch recall doesn’t happen again.”
Global Product Integrity also takes responsibility for supplier quality and will include leadership from newly appointed safety czar Jeff Boyer, who GM says today will oversee the addition of 35 product investigators.
GM is working through a recall of 2.6 million vehicles, mostly in the U.S., to fix a defective ignition switch that can slip from the “run” position to “off” or “accessory,” which kills the engine and disables power steering and power brakes, as well as other electronic safety equipment such as airbags.
The problem has been linked to 13 deaths and 31 crashes, and emerging documents show GM knew there was a problem with the switch dating back to the initial production of the cars early in the last decade.
But the automaker chose to release service bulletins to dealers advising owners of the affected vehicles, such as the Chevy Cobalt small car, to remove all items from their key rings and use the ignition key only, instead of performing an official recall.
Two GM executive engineers since have been placed on paid leave while the automaker conducts in internal investigation into why it took so long to perform the recall, and Barra has formed a number of company initiatives giving employees more power to speak up when they see a potential defect.
The Global Product Integrity group will begin work immediately, GM says, and “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.”
Ken Kelzer, who currently heads powertrain engineering at GM Europe and joined the automaker in 1982, will lead the other half of the organization, Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems.
Kelzer’s work experience includes stints as chief engineer of GM fullsize and midsize vehicles, chief engineer for rear-wheel-drive and performance vehicles and a leadership role in the automaker’s chassis and accessories group.
Global Vehicle Components and Subsystems will comprise GM’s engineering operations, components development, advanced vehicle development and other engineering business initiatives.
GM on Thursday is expected to update journalists and Wall Street analysts on the progress of the recall, a process expected to take several months. Sources told WardsAuto last week a first batch of ignition-switch fixes had occurred, and the vehicles were returned to their owners.