Never Mind The Part Number, GM’s Ignition Sign-Off Had No Purchase Order

Follow the asterisks...

Follow the asterisks…

The Ray DeGorgio-signed GM Validation Sign-Off for the “stealth redesigned” ignition has been much-mentioned for the fact that it showed GM did sign off on engineering changes without a part number change. But the most interesting part of the document seems to have been little discussed anywhere: the unfilled fields for “GM Validation Engineer” and “Purchase Order No.” Perhaps the asterisk next to them means something important…

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The Great Auto Safety Crash, Or, Why You Need To Be A Lawyer To Do An Automotive Journalist’s Work

GMCobaltNHTSA

I'm not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960's...

I’m not an automotive journalist, but I played one on TV in the 1960’s…

Of all the automotive sector topics covered by the business media, defect recalls are consistently one of the most tricky to cover. Most defects are the inevitable products of immensely complex supply chains and constant price pressure, and recalls for them are ultimately a sign of a company responding to the problem. And with some 22 million vehicles recalled from the US market in 2013, consumers can hardly be expected to know which ones represent grounds for real concern.

Because automakers control all the information about the products they make, reporters on the automotive safety beat have little choice but rely on the company line for their stories. Only the threat of investigation by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration compels automakers to fully reveal their dirty laundry, and only NHTSA’s complaint database gives the public an opportunity to compare their experiences with the company line. No wonder the first real auto safety journalist (and the inspiration for NHTSA’s founding) was a lawyer.

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