GM reassigns executive who dealt with ignition switch probe

Mon May 12, 2014 10:21am EDT
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DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) has reassigned an executive who dealt with U.S. safety regulators probing defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths, as part of a restructuring meant to improve vehicle safety, the automaker said on Monday.

M. Carmen Benavides, director of field product investigations and evaluations and an executive who has worked closely with U.S. safety regulators in Washington, has been shifted to a new job in the Detroit automaker's safety group, GM spokesman Greg Martin said.

Benavides, who is now director of safety improvement initiatives, was replaced by Brian Latouf.

Benavides' name is on many documents in which GM responded to questions from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including several in the recall of the faulty ignition switches. She also received an email last summer in which a top NHTSA official called GM "slow to communicate" and "slow to act" on details and recalls.

The Detroit News reported the reassignment last week.

Martin said the move was unrelated to the ignition switch recall and part of executive changes announced on April 22 that included splitting engineering into two groups and the retirement of engineering chief John Calabrese. GM said at the time that the restructuring was meant to improve vehicle safety and quality.

"Brian and Carmen will be undertaking important roles to support Jeff Boyer," Martin said, referring to GM's new global safety chief.

GM global product development chief Mark Reuss said last month more changes in the structure of his organization, which includes responsibility for engineering and recalls, were coming.

GM has recalled 2.6 million cars, including Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, because the defective ignition switches are prone to being jostled into accessory mode while the cars were moving. That would shut off engines and disable power steering, power brakes and airbags.   Continued...

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan in this file photograph taken August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files