GM restructures engineering to improve vehicle quality, safety

DETROIT, April 22 Tue Apr 22, 2014 10:56am EDT

DETROIT, April 22 (Reuters) - General Motors Co said on Tuesday it is restructuring its engineering operations in a move meant to improve quality and safety of its vehicles, even as it deals with the fallout from the defective ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker said global vehicle engineering is being split into two new organizations: global product integrity, and global vehicle components and subsystems.

The former group, effective immediately, will use "advanced analysis tools and processes" to catch and prevent issues during vehicle development, and review field data to "react quickly to safety and product quality issues," GM said. It will focus on vehicle features such as ride and handling, steering, and braking, as well as overall quality and safety performance.

As part of the reorganization, GM said its global vehicle engineering chief, John Calabrese, is retiring. The 33-year GM veteran will remain through August to help with the transition.

GM has come under heavy criticism for not catching the defective ignition switch that led to the recall of 2.6 million vehicles. The faulty switches had been studied by engineers in the company as early as 2001, but the issue never led to a recall until the initial action in February this year.

Ken Morris, currently executive director of global chassis engineering, has been named vice president of the global product integrity business, and new global vehicle safety chief Jeff Boyer will report to him. The organization will include vehicle, powertrain and electrical systems engineering as well as vehicle performance and supplier quality.

Ken Kelzer, currently vice president of GM Europe powertrain engineering, has been named vice president of the global vehicle components business. His responsibility includes parts, advanced vehicle development and other engineering initiatives. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski)