Should GM Engineers Face the Music?

a speculation by Professor Mark Werwath

Things are not looking good for GM and the rest of the automobile industry right now. It is likely that more cars will be recalled this year in the US than the number that are usually built (approximately 17 million). Every car company is suddenly super cautious, including Toyota, and for good reason. People have been injured, a few even killed, and long-standing problems have been brought to light.

This begs this question: what part did the engineers play? Engineers are usually known for being hard-working and dedicated to safety and quality. They don’t generally like politics or cover-ups, but in cases like this, it is often company culture that determines what is and is not an acceptable solution to a problem. Engineers don’t usually work in a vacuum, and neither do companies like Toyota or GM. There is supposed to be regular oversight from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help prevent these types of product issues.

So where should the blame fall? Is it the NHTSA’s fault? Is GM to blame? Or should responsibility rest squarely upon the shoulders of the engineers who designed and implemented the faulty parts? GM seems to be pointing its finger at the engineers, two of whom were recently put on paid leave as “part of an internal investigation.” From a moral standpoint, these engineers are probably guilty; but can the same be said from an ethical and/or legal standpoint? This is a topic worthy of much discussion and debate, and we’d love to hear what you think.

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