GM names new vehicle safety chief after ignition-switch recall

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DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Co on Tuesday named a new vehicle safety chief who will be responsible for heading off issues like the faulty ignition switches linked to 12 deaths and the recall of more than 1.6 million vehicles.

Jeff Boyer, a GM veteran who has been with the company for more than 40 years, has been appointed vice president of global vehicle safety, effective immediately.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker said Boyer’s responsibilities will be "to quickly identify and resolve product safety issues," including handling recalls. Boyer, who was executive director of engineering operations and systems development, will provide frequent updates on vehicle safety to Chief Executive Mary Barra, senior management and the board of directors.

"Jeff’s appointment provides direct and ongoing access to GM leadership and the board of directors on critical customer safety issues," Barra said in a statement.

"This new role elevates and integrates our safety process under a single leader so we can set a new standard for customer safety with more rigorous accountability," she added. "If there are any obstacles in his way, Jeff has the authority to clear them. If he needs any additional resources, he will get them."

In the last two months, GM has recalled more than 3.3 million vehicles globally, following the announcement on Monday of three new recalls affecting 1.75 million vehicles, most in the United States.

Barra said on Monday that the Detroit automaker would take a $300 million charge in the first quarter, primarily to cover the costs related to the ignition-switch recall and the three new recalls. She also said there would be "more developments to announce" in the future as the company works to improve its recall process.

GM said that when the ignition switch was jostled, a key could turn off the car’s engine and disable airbags, sometimes while traveling at high speed. Barra previously apologized for GM’s failure to catch the problem sooner.

The decade-long process that led to last month’s ignition-switch recall of such older GM models as the 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2003-2007 Saturn Ion has led to government criminal and civil investigations, congressional hearings and class-action lawsuits in the United States and Canada. All ask why GM took so long to address a problem it has said first came to its attention in 2001.

In his new safety job, Boyer, 58, will report to John Calabrese, vice president in charge of global vehicle engineering and be a member of global product development chief Mark Reuss’s staff, GM said. Boyer will have global responsibility for the safety development of GM vehicle systems as well as post-sale safety activities, including recalls.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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