Harley Davidson said Jim Federico, 56, who retired from GM on Monday, will start as vice president of engineering on June 2, working at the company's Milwaukee headquarters.
Federico had been director of global vehicle integration at GM since September 2013.
According to GM documents made public last month by Congress, Federico had received reports from an engineer in the company's product investigations department trying to learn the root cause of airbag failures in GM vehicles.
The effort to answer that question led to engineers finding the defective ignition switch. In 2012, Federico had been a "champion" of that probe, a term used to identify a senior executive who marshals internal resources.
GM said Monday that Federico's retirement was his choice and had nothing to do with the switch recall.