GM manager says ex-engineer took data that could have aided rivals
DETROIT -- A former General Motors engineer took confidential hybrid vehicle information that could lessen the automaker's competitive advantages if shared with other companies, a GM manager said today in court testimony.
Shanshan Du, who was hired in 2000 as an engineer for GM's Advanced Technology Vehicles Group in suburban Detroit, copied more than 16,000 documents dealing with hybrid vehicles after being offered a severance agreement in January 2005.
Then on Aug. 30, 2005, an external hard drive containing the documents was found in the bag of her husband, Yu Qin, at his job at Controlled Power Co. in suburban Detroit. Controlled Power had fired Qin that day for operating a side company, Millennium Technology International Inc., and turned the hard drive over to GM to analyze.
Qin and Du face charges of stealing GM hybrid technology for a business venture to build a hybrid electric vehicle in China with Chery Automobile Co., a Chinese auto manufacturer and GM competitor.
Sensitive source code critical to hybrid vehicles was found on Qin's Controlled Power laptop, said Peter Savagian, one of Du's managers at GM.
The source code, developed between 1994 and 2004, ensures that hybrid vehicles operate as smoothly as possible.
To show the sensitivity of source code, the prosecution asked Savagian if Toyota or Ford have ever published code relating to their hybrid offerings, with Savagian replying "no."
Savagian said he is GM's engineering director for electrification architecture.
Other assets Du copied to an external hard drive included schematics of engine components such as inverter technology.
Sharing this information with other companies could benefit GM's competitors, Savagian said.
Qin and Du were indicted in July 2010 and pleaded not guilty to three counts each of trade theft and wire fraud. Qin also was charged with obstruction of justice.
Each of the trade theft counts carries a 10-year sentence and/or a $250,000 fine. Both the wire fraud and obstruction of justice counts carry a penalty of 20 years and/or a $250,000 fine.
Testimony in the case is expected to continue into next week.
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