By on October 24, 2013


The Times of India and the Hindustan Times are reporting that a panel appointed by the Indian government to look into General Motors’ recall last summer of 114,000 Chevrolet Tavera multiple use vehicles says that the company violated testing regulations, according to a government official who has seen the report. The recall came after a surprise check by the Automotive Research Association of India, an industry group that works with India’s Ministry of Transportation, found that the Tavera’s production diesel engines were not consistent with those that GM had supplied for testing.

The official told the news agency that the fault was GM’s not the lab doing the testing. Speaking on background, the official said, “The report has pointed out that it is in the nature of corporate fraud. It says only the [automaker] was responsible for whatever happened,” and that the automaker’s Indian subsidiary could be fined as much as 100 million rupees ($1.6 million) under current regulations.  GM India released a statement saying that company policies had been violated and that it had identified those resposible.

Back in July, GM recalled the Indian made Tavera SUVs over the emission issue and also stopped production. At the time, The Economic Times of India reported that GM had told government investigators that employees had fitted vehicles sent for testing with ‘ringer’ engines, engines known to meet the standards.

Sam Winegarden, GM’s vice president for global engine engineering, and several other employees were fired when the scandal broke for unspecified “violations of company policy”.

“We determined there was an emissions problem,” GM India said in a statement on Tuesday. “We investigated it and identified violations of company policy. We held people accountable. And, we advised Indian authorities. Beyond that, we’re not able to comment as we’ve not heard from the government or seen the report.”

The company also reported to Reuters that it has received regulatory approvals and restarted production of the Tavera BS III models at its plant in Halol in the state of Gujarat state. GM India Vice President P. Balendran said, “GM India has already received BS III 7,8,9 and 10 seater type approvals and production has also started. BS IV approval is under process and approval is expected anytime now and will start production soon.”

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15 Comments on “GM Found Responsible For Using “Ringer” Engines in Indian Emissions Testing, Tavera Production Resumes...”

  • avatar

    Typical CYA by GM. I’m amazed that they would allow that sort of variability in QC to make this an issue. Piss poor factory standards or work environment?

    Would Faisal know what the factory was like?

  • avatar

    At least the Indian agency actually tests themselves. The EPA just trust the numbes the car makers fabricate.

    • 0 avatar

      The lovely self certification the us has. Some people argue that its better since it gives the government an opportunity to go after car makers if it finds a flaw, since they didn’t test it.

      But, at the sometime i wonder if it is really necessary. If the government tests the item and says it complies we can just blame the government for not being hard enough. Then again its not like countries that have type approval don’t have recalls.

      Type approval is a nice system as independent agencies test, confirm, that it meets specification. One would argue that it is better due to the independent testing.

      • 0 avatar

        Self certification reduces costs. Added costs of testing each vehicle would be added to the sticker price. Personally, I would rather the cheaper price than more red tape and added cost for no added value.

        • 0 avatar

          Agreed. Compliance rates are high — there is enough sample testing after the fact to keep the automakers (mostly) honest, and the government can charge fines that are high enough and create publicity that is bad enough to generally keep them in line. There’s no good reason to bureaucratize it further.

        • 0 avatar

          “Added costs of testing each vehicle would be added to the sticker price.”

          I dont know, so I’ll ask: Is there anyone out there who knows how much it costs to test a vehicle, or the steps necessary and the time involved?

          Seems to me that having a PROCESS to test a random sample of vehicles could be done by the US government for a very small amount of money (relative to the cost of the number of vehicles sold)

          I’d think it would be cheaper than crash testing them, a task that could now be off-loaded to the insurance industry

          EDIT: I’ll withdraw the question given DoctorOlds assertion below of $125 per vehicle, and that OBD2 solves the problem.

          • 0 avatar

            “a PROCESS to test a random sample of vehicles could be done by the US government for a very small amount of money”

            The US government already does that.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            That $125 figure comes from memory and is from 1998! At that time, a full emissions test on one vehicle cost about $1,200, iirc. It is probably a lot more today.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      The carmakers do not fabricate numbers in the closely documented and scrutinized emissions certification and testing programs required in the US. The extremely high potential cost risk of a recall is plenty of incentive to be sure vehicles will comply for their useful lives. In addition, makers must report all warranty that exceeds 1% on emission systems, and agencies have the power to order recall if the failure rate exceeds 4% in the vehicle’s useful life. That is at least 10 years and 150,000 miles today.

      EPA and CARB both maintain divisions whose responsibility is to choose vehicle populations for in-use testing any time in their useful life. The sophisticated OBD requirements mandated by US law are an example of an extremely difficult technology to master, a high bar to clear if a maker wants to sell here. Even a ‘Service Engine Soon” light coming on falsely can trigger agency attention as a recallable defect! More importantly, customer don’t want them either!

      The United States generally relies on voluntary compliance in many areas, food and other consumer products for example. Agree that we don’t need more bureaucracy.

  • avatar

    Ford’s APTC (Allen Park emissions Test Center) exists for the same reason. In the early 70s Ford was caught by the EPA taking production vehicles and then finely recalibrating them before submitting them for emissions compliance testing (it is noteworthy that OEM’s do the majority of compliance testing in house and submit the results to the EPA, DOT, etc.)

    As result of the suit, or threatened suit, one remediation measure required by the EPA was to get the testing lab out of the main Ford development complex in Dearborn, thus Allen Park.

    To add teeth to the EPA’s requirements, Ford was also slapped with the then record large fine for violation of EPA regulations and fraud (I don’t recall however how much it was).

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Termination of a Global Engineering VP and Global Executive Director of personnel for emission test improprieties is unprecedented. Apparently, Winegarden and others had learned of the malfeasance in India, directed it be stopped immediately, and were assured by middle management there that it was addressed and discontinued, when in fact it was still going on. The failure to assure corrective action is evidently the violation of company policy involved.

    FWIW- There was a time when California required every manufacturer to “randomly and continuously select 2% of production” for full EPA chassis dyno emissions testing. Bureaucrats had conceptualized every plant having an “end of line” test facility. That did not make sense from a capital investment and manpower perspective, so vehicles were diverted from assembly plants to a handful of test sites. The logistics were tough. California buyers paid a fee- $125/vehicle iirc -to cover the costs. Carmakers successfully argued, as the data showed, that there was no real payback of the $millions in costs involved. With the advent of OBD II, California relented and dropped the 2% audit requirement in favor of monitoring of company fleet vehicles.
    The EPA could also show up at an assembly plant and demand to collect a sample of vehicles to be diverted for emission testing. At GM, we spent significant money complying with these requirements, and never had any action necessary as a result.
    Besides, quality people know that 100% inspection is, at best, 80% effective! ;-)

  • avatar

    “…the company violated testing regulations, according to a government official who has seen the report.”

    Oh well that’s a credible primary source, isn’t it?

    I read an engineering report on a vacuum cleaner the other day. I can build a Dyson in my basement now.

  • avatar

    Before anybody roast GM too badly for this, let’s look back about 15 years ago. There, you will find Honda did the same thing with their Accord when OBDII started. Seems Honda could not prevent the MIL from illuminating and they worried that this would hurt their reputation, so they reprogrammed the computer to ignore certain conditions to keep the light off. They got caught and had to fix the problem and extend some warranty points. My “Honda Only” SIL had such a car. Honda recalled it but was cagey with the facts. I informed her of what really happened. I am willing to bet others have done so; part of the problem with self certification. I guess the answer is to make the penalty so punitive that the manufacturer will think twice.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Honda was actually caught by the Japanese Government presenting a ringer, specially built car (Accord?)for crash testing. It had a double thickness floor plan to improve its score.

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