This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Ray DeGiorgio
A few days ago, there was a piece in Fortune about engineer Ray DeGiorgio, the man at the center of the Cobalt/Ion recall. The headline was "How one rogue employee can upend a whole company" and it was based on a reading of the internal Valukas Report that indicated something sketchy about DeGiorgio.
I feel like that's kind of bullshit because it takes an entire culture to produce the kind of problems that occurred, but I was also struck in combing through the report that, yeah, something is strange about this guy.
Then here comes this scoop from Nathan Bomey at the Freep about the latest recall.
GM spokesman Alan Adler confirmed in an e-mail that ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio — who was recently fired after investigators concluded he played a key role in hiding a deadly defect in the other vehicles — was the "release engineer" for the ignition switches on the newly recalled cars.
That's about 2.59 million cars originally, 3.16 million cars now, and we're almost at 6 million from one guy.
2nd Gear: A History Of Euphemisms At GM
The GM banned word list got a lot of play around here (and on John Oliver and lots of places), but was it really that bad? Brent Snavely and Alisa Priddle looked into it.
Turns out that, yeah, the idea of banned word lists are nothing new, although GM's is pretty bad even by corporate-speak standards.
Amy Edmondson, a professor of management at Harvard Business School, said she was surprised by how exhaustive GM's list was.
"Sometimes, concerns about regulatory and legal issues are more dangerous than the issues themselves because it can lead people to communicate in incomplete and inaccurate ways, often giving rise to the very risks that they are attempting to avoid," Edmondson said.
Friedman said corporate-speak often downplays or clouds the actual meaning of the problem.
"It can create a communication gap between a company and its audiences. And sometimes it can come across as a company being disingenuous," he said.
That's how I feel, too.
3rd Gear: It Gets Harder, Not Easier, For Barra
It's hard to remember that a few months ago many of us were talking about how easy its was for Mary Barra as CEO of GM. She's stepped into a company that was out of bankruptcy, was growing in sales, and started to receive some goodwill.
The company is safely out of bankruptcy, and sales are still growing, but they've basically lost almost all the warm feelings – or even the neutral ones – they'd worked so hard to get back.
Barra goes back before Congress and it's going to be absolutely fucked, but it only gets more fucked from there as Daniel Howes rightly points out.
But it's only a start. Like its hometown, GM is burdened by legitimate suspicions it cannot change, cannot slay the demons of its past to become a functioning member of corporate America not wedded to the worst habits of a golden era now long gone. Switchgate, despite all the New GM rhetoric, only reinforces suspicions compounded by the fact that most of Barra's leadership team are products of Old GM.
Managing the path back to respectability transcends the new metal in showrooms, and any New GM will be demonstrated by what it actually does. It's Job One for Barra, whom her predecessor, Dan Akerson, touted for her ability to "drive change" in a company still badly in need of it. He got that part right.
4th Gear: Why Don't We Get TSBs?
If you want to find a technical service bulletin about your car you can wait for NHTSA to post them, in limited form, and you can also search some complaints, but unless you're a reporter with a lot of time and a lot of interns making sense of it isn't easy.
This comes up in The Wall Street Journal today and they ask the important question: Dealers get them, why not everyone else?
The most recent struggle over TSBs was during negotiations over a 2012 reauthorization of highway programs. In the final language, Congress required the Transportation Department to publish, on a publicly available website, all of the auto makers' "communications to dealers" about identified defects. Safety advocates say the bulletins certainly fall in that category.
But NHTSA interprets the law narrowly, saying it doesn't require the agency to post the bulletin until the problem has technically been classified as a "safety defect." Until a safety defect has been identified, the agency says, it doesn't publish the whole bulletins because they are copyrighted documents.
A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the bulletins are copyrighted, and technical communications that aren't aimed at the consumer, but rather trained service technicians and service advisers who do the work. He added that consumers could buy the reports from outside service providers.
Yeah, fuck that. To GM's credit, they're actually in support of this.
5th Gear: Geely/Volvo Is The Most Important Chinese Merger
Can China actually make Volvo work? That's the question a lot of people had and, largely, still have. Managing a global auto brand isn't something that China has been able to achieve yet.
That being said, could they possibly do worse than Ford?
Definitely read this Reuters piece linked above to get a look into the grand ambitions Geely has for Volvo. Here's the important bit:
A senior Volvo executive said the Swedish automaker would start exporting Chinese-made sedans, a long-wheel-based version of the S60 called the S60L, to the United States and the XC90 utility crossover to Russia as early as the end of next year.
There have been some interesting forays into the North American market from China, starting with V6 engines in the Chevy Equinox and the occasional Honda Fit. But a luxury car?
If they can pull it off it'll be quite the accomplishment. As will getting Volvos into the hands of Chinese consumers who, all of a sudden, love entry-level luxury cars.
Reverse: O.J. Simpson leads L.A. police on a high-speed chase
Viewers across the nation are glued to their television screens on this day in 1994, watching as a fleet of black-and-white police cars pursues a white Ford Bronco along Interstate-405 in Los Angeles, California. Inside the Bronco is Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson, a former professional football player, actor and sports commentator whom police suspected of involvement in the recent murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Neutral: Does Barra Survive?
Or is she out?
Photo Credit: Getty Images