The departures came in the same week that GM announced the recall of 114,000 Chevrolet Tavera utility vehicles in India to address emission and specification problems. Indian media have reported that GM admitted to government officials that employees deliberately fudged emission inspections to meet standards.
In a statement to Automotive News today, GM confirmed that it has "dismissed several employees" over "violations of company policy" related to the Indian recall. A company spokesman declined to confirm Winegarden's departure.
"We take these matters very seriously and hold our leaders and employees to high standards," GM's statement says. "When those standards are not met, we will take the appropriate action to hold employees accountable."
Winegarden had been GM's top engine executive since 2004, overseeing the development and production of engines across GM's portfolio. He joined the company in 1969 as a co-op student at the Buick Motor Division while attending General Motors Institute, now Kettering University, according to a GM bio. In the early 1990s, he was chief engineer for the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Group and oversaw the Northstar V-8 and premium V-6 engine lines. He could not be reached to comment.
The Tavera recall, announced Wednesday, applies to 2.5-liter and 2.0-liter models manufactured between 2005 and 2013. The Tavera is built and sold only in India.
GM CFO Dan Ammann said while discussing GM's second-quarter results on Thursday that weak volume in India and warranty costs there contributed to the 64 percent fall in pretax profit at GM's International Operations, to $228 million.
India's Economic Times business daily reported today that GM India has Indian regulators that employees violated testing procedures in order to meet emission specifications. In some cases, to pass inspections, employees swapped out engines in new Tavera models for lower-emission engines in order to meet specifications, the report said.
In a July 18 letter to Indian regulators, GM wrote: "Over a period of time some employees of the company engaged in the practice of identifying engines with lower emission which were fine-tuned and kept aside to be used for installation on vehicles during inspection," according to the newspaper.
GM also admitted to regulators that the reported weight of several models was "manipulated" so the vehicles would be subject to less stringent emission regulations, the newspaper said. It said the government has set up a committee to investigate the case and that GM could face fines and other penalties.
GM India said it halted production and sale of the 2.5-liter Tavera model on June 4 and the 2.0-liter version on July 2. GM said the issues are not safety related and that the company "has since identified a solution to the issues and performed the required engineering validation, and is awaiting regulatory approvals."
Indian media described the Tavera recall as one of the largest ever in the country and GM's first recall in India since 1995.
In June, GM also suspended production of diesel variants of its Sail hatchback and sedan in India, citing quality-control issues, Indian media have reported. The company has said it plans to resume selling the Sail by the end of July but has not decided whether a recall is necessary, reports have said.