GM CEO Barra has been cleared of knowledge of the ignition switch problem prior to announcing the recall; 15 GM staffers have been given the chop

GM CEO Barra has been cleared of knowledge of the ignition switch problem prior to announcing the recall; 15 GM staffers have been given the chop

There are 15 vacant desks at General Motors in the US today - the latest development in the debacle that saw a faulty ignition switch design cleared for production and installation in around 2.6m cars.

Worse, it was redesigned after about five years but not given a new part number so the automaker had no way to know which cars were ok and which not. Later cars may have had the OEM-fit improved switch replaced with the older, faulty design when repaired. So, GM's had to recall the lot, fire up additional production lines at the supplier for the replacement parts sets and book millions in one-off costs.

Little wonder then that, after receiving a report GM commissioned from former US Attorney Anton Valukas into What Happened, CEO Mary Barra announced that 15 staffers had been fired and further five "disciplined".  As you'd expect, GM has declined to name the axed 15 but Reuters - citing 'sources with knowledge of the matter' - has named most and they, unsurprisingly, include Ray DeGiorgio, designer of the defective switches linked to at least 13 deaths, and Gary Altman, chief engineer for the high volume, entry level Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion model lines, which used those switches. As we reported, it was DeGiorgio who, the New York Times alleged, told Congressional investigators he had forgotten about the design changes he signed off without a new part number (mainly a stronger spring and longer detent pin).

Valukas' report has cleared Barra and several other top GM executives of prior knowledge of the ignition switch problem before the recall announcement at the end of January, and industry observers have largely praised her for her handling of the issue, but there is still a big mess to clean up, including getting all the affected cars fixed and dealing with the lawsuits.

With satisfaction, I have noted my children have become avid car spotters, at least as far as Minis are concerned. Any sighting of one prompts a loud cry of "Mini" and they have learned to distinguish the 'classic' British Leyland versions from the BMW-built cars, that now seem to be everywhere, and also pick out the 'big Mini' Countryman models. Till now, though, the regular three-door Mini hatchback has never been a sole family car contender, chez Roberts. This week's announcement of the new five-door; longer, with more rear seat room, provision for three, instead of two, rear seat passengers and a bit more boot space changes that and I'm looking forward to seeing it. Meanwhile, we've had a go at the latest three-door.

At an industry conference in Belgium, new PSA CEO Carlos Tavares restated his recovery plan for the company based on a rationalisation of product and a more globally based organisation.

And, at a ride and drive, show and tell event in Germany, TRW said increasing safety developments will occur in tandem with lightweighting and ever-greater fuel efficiency, while component provision will also decrease in cost.

A busy week for the just-auto team.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor,