By on April 10, 2014

Rencen. Picture courtesy GM

Associated Press reports General Motors has placed two engineers on paid leave as “an interim step” in the investigation conducted by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas. Spokesman Greg Martin declined to name the two engineers in question.

The Detroit News reports GM has been fined $28,000 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to answer in full by the April 3, 2014 deadline the 107-question survey sent to the automaker regarding the recall of 2.6 million vehicles with an out-of-spec ignition switch linked to 13 fatalities and 33 accidents. Furthermore, the agency will fine GM $7,000/day so long as the automaker continues to fail to comply with the inquiry in full, and may call in the Justice Department to sue GM for answers and fines.

As for how this came to pass, GM says it couldn’t provide all of the answers as the outside investigation by Valukas had yet to be completed. Meanwhile, spokesman Greg Martin defended the automaker’s response to the survey, citing the millions of related documents already delivered to the NHTSA as proof of compliance.

The agency may not be alone in its dimming view of GM, however, as concerns running through Wall Street have sent price targets of GM stock downward amid gloomy forecasts of rising costs, diminished earnings and other challenges outside of the recall crisis. Analysts for Morgan Stanley and RBC Capital Markets have dropped their target prices of $49 and $47 per share to $33 and $46, respectively, with the former downgrading GM stock to “underweight.”

Without the crisis, however, the automaker still has rough seas ahead after emerging from government ownership, with Wall Street fearing for the long-term future of GM in the face of strengthening Japanese automakers — bolstered by a weakened yen — dependency on its joint ventures in China, problems in Europe and other international markets, and domestic challenges from Ford and Tesla.

In other financial news, Bloomberg reports former GM financial arm Ally Financial’s exit from U.S. Treasury ownership would allow Ally to take on more subprime auto loan borrowers. The finance company currently holds 11 percent of its portfolio in such loans, and at $25/share in its IPO, the $2.83 billion raised would give Ally a boost in attracting more subprime borrowers.

However, both CreditSights Inc. analyst Jesse Rosenthal and independent banking consultant Bert Ely shared concerns regarding the finance company’s reliance on auto loans, especially in the subprime market, citing the lack of diversification other consumer-finance companies or large banks possess in weathering the credit risk subprime auto lending could bring. Bloomberg adds that Ally’s relationship with GM — 39 percent of its lending and leasing portfolio came from the automaker in 2013 — could add an additional risk in light of the latter’s ongoing recall crisis.

Finally, Automotive News presents a history of failure between GM and its suppliers over the functionality of the ignition switch in Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, leading to numerous changes, complaints, claims and, a decade later, a recall crisis that may bring more pain than the automaker could bear.

The first problem — Ion owners not being able to start their vehicle in cold weather — prompted the 2004 redesign currently linked to the recall, then quietly changed in April 2006 when the second and third problems — Cobalt owners not being able to shut off their vehicle unless they accidentally bumped their knee into the ignition — led to the conclusion by two engineers that the switch was mounted too low, and that it was “falling apart.”

Furthermore, in the deposition given by engineer David Trush in the case regarding the 2010 death of Brooke Melton behind the wheel of her Cobalt, Trush stated GM had its supplier at the time make replacement parts for the first ignition problem alongside a service bulletin asking dealers to install the new part in affected cars; the automaker changed suppliers in 2008, citing deficiencies in quality and production in the former supplier.

Lastly, nearly two years before the recall in April of 2012, GM began offering to replace the switch on 2007 – 2009 Cobalts and Pontiac G5s and 2008 – 2012 HHRs for free, citing a “binding condition” with the cylinder and its housing which could prevent basic functionality of the ignition system.

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58 Comments on “GM Fined $28k By NHTSA, Places 2 Engineers On Paid Leave...”


  • avatar

    $7,000/day is a rounding error for GM.

    I bet they are quaking in their boots.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      Thank you. Why does every news outlet insist on attaching this insignificant fine to the headline?

      • 0 avatar
        darkwing

        Um, because it’s a fact? I thought we were trying to get away from agenda journalism…

        • 0 avatar
          ponchoman49

          I still see no mention whatsoever of the massive 6.4 million Toyota recall involving many of there smaller sized cars or the current recall form Ford or VW. Just more and more entries rehashing the same ignition recall. Yes the same agenda is still alive here!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I have to agree, Toyota’s involved wiring to the airbag not working IIRC from the local news on Wed.

            GM’s recalling, Toyota is recalling, and VAG too, all three of which are fairly serious problems.

        • 0 avatar
          gmichaelj

          @darkwing

          I see the mention of this fact as sensationalism journalism. The $7,000 is an insignificant fine and should be at the bottom of an article, not in the headline.

          Unless the point of the article is that the government is run by pedantic Apparatchiks.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “General Motors has placed two engineers on paid leave as “an interim step” in the investigation conducted by former U.S. attorney Anton Valukas. Spokesman Greg Martin declined to name the two engineers in question.”

    I bet I could name them, Mr. Scape and Mr. Goat

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes. As a design engineer, my blood just went cold.

      • 0 avatar
        onyxtape

        Prepare for engineering costs to go through the roof if individual engineering pawns are to be held legally / professionally liable for stuff like this.

        • 0 avatar
          ktm

          Registered professional civil engineers are already personally and professionally liable for all of their designs that they sign and stamp. Even a drainage ditch. Welcome to accountability. It’s about time.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @onyxtape – any licenced professional is accountable for their work. They can face litigation separate from their employer. They can face censure from their governing body.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      It’s damn near impossible to “suspend” an institutionalized culture of incompetence and blatant disregard for safety.

      At this rate, we’d get back the billions lost from the bailout in… what, close to 4,000 years? Seems NHTSA needs to pump up that daily fine by an exponential order of magnitude to make GM hurt where it counts.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      There’s a process that comes close to resolution by the time you get to ‘search for a scapegoat’ and ‘assignment of blame’. This just shows how quickly GM is responding to the crisis – in traditional manner. No matter how blatantly false the process is, it almost always works, at least for the higher ups.

    • 0 avatar
      RetroGrouch

      That thumping you hear is the bodies of two engineers casually tossed under the party bus as it transports middle management and higher to the bank to deposit their bonus checks.

      • 0 avatar
        jjster6

        Who needs an investigation? It appears most commenters here already think they have all the facts!!!

        • 0 avatar
          fvfvsix

          jjster6 – I can tell you what I do know. Two engineers at GM aren’t the ones responsible for the decision to avoid responding to a Godd*mn government survey. Use common sense here. Scape and Goat, as others have said.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…then quietly changed in April 2006”

    Nice editorial choice of words. Do you know how many engineering changes are made by manufacturers every day that are ‘quiet’? Nearly all.

    Sorry – the public isn’t going to be notified every time an ECO is written to improve a component.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      I think Cameron meant “quietly” as in, “so we can hide that this change was necessary, we aren’t going to issue a new part number.”

      In other words, GM didn’t even let itself know that the part had been redesigned.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Exactly. The issue isn’t that they didn’t notify the public about the change, its that GM appeared to keep the change hushed and covered up so very few people knew that it even occurred (or could freely discover).

        Engineering changes also need to have proper documentation so everyone (engineers/lawyers) knows/can know that the change occurred. The change was only uncovered after engineers working for the attorneys of one of the victims bought a bunch of ignition columns from Colbalts and noticed that they were not all the same.

        Even then though the part was changed apparently due to safety concerns with the old part, which means that GM probably should have notify the government at least.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        I know what Cameron meant, and I object to the implication. My point is that not every design improvement in industry is made public – in fact, very few are. There are many defendable reasons why GM handled the change this way. One of them is that at the time the change was made, there wasn’t yet a linkage between this part’s failures and the deaths – only that the part was not meeting spec.

        But using the word ‘quietly’ is a clever editorial slant on an otherwise factual story.

        • 0 avatar
          SayMyName

          No implications intended, and you do make a fair point – but as GM obviously didn’t loudly proclaim the changes, the term “quietly” still seems appropriate to me.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam

      Sorry, but ECOs these days are only written and approved for the purpose of cost-reduction, NOT design improvement.

  • avatar
    vcficus

    Note to automotive engineer worker self: stay away from airbags, ignitions, brakes, door handles, fuel tanks, gas pedals, floor mats, bumpers, seat belts, and warning stickers…

    I handle seal tapes and NVH materials for a supplier… worst warrenty claim is your trunk leaked or your radio isn’t loud enough to drown out road noise… not sexy, but keeps you out of court.

    I had a friend at TRW give 3 depositions on airbags in one year, got out of them altogether. Hard to prove what you did or didn’t do when you’re depending on your companies records and your email chain or lack of it.

    I still don’t see this as a huge directed cover up… don’t think GM is capable of such coordinated action, just look at their product line up for the last 20 years. More like a couple grunts at my level making mistakes and then trying to get out with clean hands instead of raising the flag. Maybe criminal, but not corporate criminal unless the memos are there to show it.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      So your theory seems to be that the engineers knew of the mistake and covered it up themselves to avoid getting in trouble. Interesting. I guess the facts will show whether that’s true or not.

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    $28K ? For all the damage , death and hassle GM has caused over this ? Is the NHTSA serious or is this supposed to be some kind of overdue April Fools joke ?

    Yeah …. $28k …. Go ahead all you GM apologists . Try especially now to convince me GM doesn’t receive a whole lot of Government favoritism … not to mention the Feds more often than not turing a Blind Eye towards GMs eff ups !

    And yeah again . Don’t place the blame for all this on the Bean Counters and Decision Makers at the top of the Food Chain at GM . Blame a couple of scape goat engineers . Like they had a choice NOT to follow the orders from on high …. little corporate Drone/ Lemmings that they are

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    Note to ALL white collar workers/engineers /non upper management types at GM and elsewhere ;

    Reality Check ; You ARE responsible for everything that your betters say you are . But have ZERO authority/decision making capabilities etc over anything . The absolute worse case work place scenario there is .

    Now remind me again why working for the likes of GM is such a great job ?

    • 0 avatar
      wolfinator

      I guess even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    • 0 avatar

      Fact Check – You do not work at GM so you have absolutely zero idea of what responsibilities, authority or decision making capabilities GM employees have.

      Fact Check – You do not work in any industry even remotely related to the automotive industry and would probably have a difficult time changing your own oil.

      Fact Check – Being a GM employee is one of the most rewarding, satisfying jobs I have had in my 30 year Automotive career.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        Fact check: if you do in fact work at GM in an engineering job that requires system or component development you will know that what gtrslngr writes is generally true. 5,6,7 and 8 level technical experts only make recommendations to their 8 level EGM or higher director or chief engineer. Yes, the 7 and 8 level DRE will “sign off” on a part drawing and be “responsible” for sign off but in reality that DRE has no practical authority or decision making ability.

        Fact check: those in the auto industry like to hide behind their reality that the auto industry is the “most difficult” industry to succeed in. That is unmitigated bull-shit. Don’t hide behind the bull-shit and make it an excuse for failures inside GM.

        Fact check: for me GM was an absolutely toxic and dark place to work. In fact, GM felt consumed by evil. I am glad you are rewarded by your work. However, your feelings and emotions surrounding GM don’t change the fact that GM is, and has been for a long time, an institution with a cultural crisis that rewards agreeability and risk aversion in order to advance let alone survive. Clearly it has been a failure in many ways.
        Even GM’s lead cheerleader, peter de Lorenzo, has finally admitted that GM must inevitably be broken up.

        • 0 avatar

          Totally agree with this statement:

          “GM was an absolutely toxic and dark place to work.”

          Totally disagree with the “is” portion of this one:

          “GM is, and has been for a long time, an institution with a cultural crisis that rewards agreeability and risk aversion in order to advance let alone survive.”

          There is no way that GM could be putting out the excellent products that it is right now in the middle of a cultural crises. And even PDL agrees with that. Look up true believers in any of his articles – that’s me and almost ever person I work with.

          • 0 avatar
            jhott997

            The market will determine how “truly exceptional” these products really are not the “true believers”.
            PDL also finally admits that the “true believers”, as few of them as there are, have lost.
            The culture of GM still is rotten to the core.

          • 0 avatar
            jhott997

            “It’s worth pointing out that PDL worked in marketing with evidently ~zero insight, inside or otherwise, into the company. Just because someone clueless agrees with you doesn’t make them worth quoting.”

            If you have ever met and talked to De Lorenzo you will quickly realize he is not clueless. He is to be taken seriously. De Lorenzo is well known and, in fact, highly respected inside the industry of marketing cars.
            I usually don’t agree with him because he wears rose-colored glasses when it comes to GM specifically. That does not make him right or wrong. I am, and have been, a strong proponent that a broken up GM will lead to stronger brands; more focused brands. It is inevitable this will happen soon.

            I am not “lecturing” anyone on quality. I am simply trying to put some perspective in this issue. There are A LOT of know-it-alls around and they expound as if they know all.
            I was simply trying to describe what I see as the major difference between Chrysler and GM. I have a unique perspective that I dare say nobody else in this discussion has.
            I have a perspective of being involved in advanced program engineering and living to experience how the sausage is created from the beginning.

            I am certainly not defending Chrysler!

            Yes, processes are important. Until those processes cripple creativity and risk-taking.

            The Bottomline is this: GM is a broken bureaucracy filled with career head-nodders who are going along to get along. That is a fact and if outside internet observers can’t recognize that then, well, good day.

          • 0 avatar
            jhott997

            “> All you self proclaimed “True Believers” need to stop believing so blindly and question a little bit more.

            This is an odd claim since evidently asking a simple question related to the internal eng process didn’t get anywhere.

            Perhaps an apropos parody of the GM process at work.”

            What?

          • 0 avatar

            > If you have ever met and talked to De Lorenzo you will quickly realize he is not clueless.

            Unfortunately I only have access to his articles which are presumably representative of what clue he possesses:

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/barra-testifies-before-us-senate-subcommittee/#comment-3048433

            Perhaps an insider can point out what insights I might’ve missed in that rant about GM’s executive mgmt. To be clear, this isn’t about whether those insights are right or wrong, but rather if he has anything substantive to say at all.

            > I have a perspective of being involved in advanced program engineering and living to experience how the sausage is created from the beginning.

            That’s nice, but internet credentials isn’t the same thing as substance. Your main claim seems to be that GM has more bureaucracy than Chrysler, which is true enough though unsurprising.

            The less coherent assertion is of their dysfunctional culture is merely par for course within any large corp. A cogent point in this matter would be comparative & honest. For example, google is perhaps the best of the lot given its relative youth & merit, yet it’s already known for hiring hacks and putting them in consequential positions; and plenty of product failures all around. I’m sure there are also good stories behind Chrysler’s well known quality lapses that correlate well with “dysfunction”. They were after all the beneficiary of a prior gov rescue.

            > What?

            Let’s make this very clear: I asked you a simple question which should be trivial for an “engineering insider” to answer. I still don’t see a reply to it.

            https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-adds-824k-vehicles-to-recall/#comment-3029457

        • 0 avatar

          > Fact check: for me GM was an absolutely toxic and dark place to work. In fact, GM felt consumed by evil.

          It’s curious if you’ve worked for any other corp since GM for all its mediocrity is afflicted with the same bureaucracy as its peers.

          Btw, I recall trying to to ask a substantive question a bit back of an “insider” quite keen to speak of GM:

          https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/gm-adds-824k-vehicles-to-recall/#comment-3029457

          I guess his interests lie elsewhere.

          > peter de Lorenzo

          Insider appealing to PDL, lol.

          • 0 avatar
            jhott997

            GM, as owner of the part specification, is solely responsible for definition of all part requirements.

            I worked at Chrysler. The biggest difference between GM and Chrylser is this:
            GM is layered in bureaucracy. people hide in the bureaucracy and use it as an excuse.
            Another key difference, and one which is rarely touched upon, is that there is very little creative freedom at GM. GM relies heavily and exclusively on Bills of Design and Bills of Material. These documents create an environment where creativity and “outside the box” thinking is heavily discouraged; even mocked.
            Chrysler, as a much smaller company, must be more creative and more risk taking in design and development. It leads, generally, to a healthier environment where engineers feel empowered to take a calculated risk and think outside the box without fear of ridicule or mocking.

            The current mess that GM is in with the ignition redesign is a direct result of a culture of “yes men”, indifference and going-along-to-get-along. These are two attributes which are heavily rewarded at GM.
            I believe that the whole mess got out of control early on with what was probably an innocent miscalculation and maybe even a design outside of a Bill of Design requirement. The mistake was allowed to continue, uncorrected, because of this culture of going-along-to get along. Nobody wanted to piss off their boss and this attitude continued at every level of the bureaucratic chain. The idea that only a couple of 7 and 8 level DRE engineers where the only one’s who knew, for 10 years, about the problem is farcical.

            Listening the self proclaimed “true believers” talk about how this and that has changed at the “new GM” is absolute complete bull-shit bordering on Newspeak. Nothing has changed at GM and De Lorenzo is correct in his editorial this week:

            “Because the fact of the matter is that the corporate superstructure of General Motors is out of touch, out of time and out of excuses.

            And The End of General Motors not only could happen, it should happen.”

          • 0 avatar
            jhott997

            One last point:
            All you self proclaimed “True Believers” need to stop believing so blindly and question a little bit more.
            ONLY when you start asking questions and expecting excellence from you corporate managers will anything truly CHANGE!
            If you “believe” blindly and unquestioningly then NOTHING can, or will, change!

          • 0 avatar

            > All you self proclaimed “True Believers” need to stop believing so blindly and question a little bit more.

            This is an odd claim since evidently asking a simple question related to the internal eng process didn’t get anywhere.

            Perhaps an apropos parody of the GM process at work.

          • 0 avatar

            > I worked at Chrysler. The biggest difference between GM and Chrylser is this:

            It’s true that Chrysler as the nippy underdog of the big 3 is less bureaucratic than GM. But it’s also true that bureaucracy as strict process is meant to exclude off-the-cuff decisions that are as often poor as good.

            That’s coincidently why someone from Chrysler shouldn’t be lecturing GM about “quality”.

            > De Lorenzo is correct

            It’s worth pointing out that PDL worked in marketing with evidently ~zero insight, inside or otherwise, into the company. Just because someone clueless agrees with you doesn’t make them worth quoting.

      • 0 avatar
        SayMyName

        “Being a GM employee is one of the most rewarding, satisfying jobs I have had in my 30 year Automotive career.”

        How sad your life must be.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Not exactly. I used to run my family’s bridge building firm. Our Civil Engineers where responsible and had the final authority/decision making powers for bridge designs. They where very professional and conscious about their designs. If they got it wrong, people could die. Kinda funny how that affected their decisions.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        This. I am a structural engineer. If I am not comfortable with something, I don’t stamp it, period. If someone else wants to take responsibility for it, I ensure that they are aware of what my concerns were. Management has no authority to force an engineer to take responsibility for any design they aren’t comfortable with, and an engineer needs to understand that they may be required to leave the job in case management really wants to force the issue. But, that’s the pros and cons of being a professional member of a self regulated profession.

        • 0 avatar
          jhott997

          The situation you describe it absolutely not the case in the auto industry.
          Engineers in the auto industry, for the most part, are not PE’s and are not obligated by those standards.
          In my 12 years I worked with only a handful PE’s. I have passed the EIT exam and that is a bit more common in the industry. But nothing worth speaking of.
          Releasing engineers in the auto industry are regulated only by their own moral compass and whatever internal requirements that may exist.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Thanks for your reply jhott997. I am pretty knowledgeable about the duty of care to public safety a registered professional engineer is required to consider in his practice. It bothers me that this seems to be of secondary importance working for a car company. I guess I should consider myself lucky to be in a field that takes this seriously.

          • 0 avatar

            > I am pretty knowledgeable about the duty of care to public safety a registered professional engineer is required to consider in his practice. It bothers me that this seems to be of secondary importance working for a car company.

            “registered professional engineer” is largely a trade guild issue akin to registered lawyer/doctor.

            It’s not really a mark of quality as much as union by another name.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            While I agree that someone being a P.Eng or PE inst necessarily “a mark of quality”, (I know some dumb engineers) I think you are seriously dismissing the profession of engineering, at least the way it is governed in Canada.

            In Canada, the provincial associations are not unions or trade guilds. They have absolutely no bearing on hiring, firing, wages, benefits etc, and they don’t exist in some work places or not the other. Unless a boss is promoting or forcing unsafe/objectionable conduct, they never get involved in a workplace.

            They are regulatory bodies, governing the practice of engineering. Their authority is derived through legislation, specifically the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act. The building code, or whatever code is applicable then states what must be stamped/certified/signed/sealed by a P.Eng. The association doesn’t mandate it.

            To become a Professional Engineer, one must have a bachelors level degree in engineering from an accredited educational instituion, and then mentor under a P.Eng for 4 years. Once registered as a professional, the engineer in question must both pursue continuing education, but most importantly NOT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR SOMETHING FOR WHICH THEY ARE NOT QUALIFIED. Since the associations are administrated by professional engineers, they rigorously investigate every complaint or perceived infraction. We are allowed to regulate ourselves, so it is taken extremely seriously lest that privilege is taken away. An engineer regulated in Canada’s first duty of care is to public safety. This is why I mention that sometimes we might have to be willing to have a pair and leave a job where the Code of Ethics of the profession are being compromised. I can’t speak for anyone else but I take it pretty seriously. I am extremely cognizant of the consequences of mistakes I might make.

          • 0 avatar

            > In Canada, the provincial associations are not unions or trade guilds.

            The same associations have the effect of trade guilds as your post itself implies, only more formalized; just as “registered” lawyers or doctors is to large degree a state matter. It does guarantee some minimal competence with accreditation, but this is not the same thing as quality work.

            Per your separate point of regulation, I agree it’s a good idea to have some oversight. In the US automotive safety specifically is domain of the NHTSA/DOT/etc.

            The two types of systems simply oversee the process from different ends. One to check the practitioners, the other to check the results. Regulatory bodies can choose to be lax or uptight, but there’s no data to suggest the NHTSA is asleep at the wheel like some other agencies.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            UMS, would you mind defining trade guild for me?

            It seems as if you buy my premise that the association I belong to isn’t a union, but I am not 100% clear on the meaning of trade guild. A quick google search indicates that trade guilds exist to foster a profession, which our associations do, but I am not sure if the regulatory aspect is covered by that definition.

            As I mentioned, I agree that simply being registered in my association isn’t doesn’t guarantee quality, but personally I feel that they do a good job of encouraging/enforcing people to work within their level competence.

            That above point doesn’t account for management structures, however. If a place like GM, or the NHTSA has lax requirements for what needs to be sealed by a PE (which is the more important point here I feel), then the regulatory structure of the local engineering association doesn’t really come into play. Is that a fair statement?

          • 0 avatar

            This isn’t really an argument over strict definitions, but generally an overarching point of a guild is to establish exclusive membership. eg. go to our accredited schools, intern under our accredited members and you too can work our accredited jobs.

            Wanna get in on the action from another discipline, or not from around these parts, etc? Too bad. Note the tests aren’t for competence per se (which is only enforced in hindsight for failure), but participation. Whose purview exactly the rules are under is mostly irrelevant.

            This isn’t meant to claim it’s necessarily a poor idea (esp for the interests of the membership), but any largely self-regulated exclusive club has its own drawbacks.

            > Is that a fair statement?

            Yes, but we’re discussing the end result here. The point is competent people help, but in a war with an incompetent system the latter usually wins anyway.

            If your solution is to put more of the guild inside the mgmt processes, I’m personally for that because imo competence matters, but that’s never going to happen in the US.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Thanks for the measured replies. I’ve gotten the feeling reading some of your past posts that you don’t care for engineers. This comes from your often using the term “engineer” with the quotation marks in response to people stating they have proficiency or knowledge on a certain subject.

            With respect to exclusivity of the associations you mention, I know that the association which I am a member of, has different types of professional licences to accommodate those which you mention. Foreign trained engineers can easily become registered professional members, should they have been educated at an institution which has a mutual recognition agreement with Engineers Canada. If not, they use the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (developed in the US) to establish basic competency and will often assign 12 months working under a P.Eng., before professional designation is given. It takes some work but its easily doable. I know and work with people have gone through this process and they spoke that it was fair.

            They also have foreign licencees, allowing foreign engineers and companies to be able to practice locally. Similar steps are taken as above to establish that basic level of competence we talked about earlier.

            Finally, engineering techs, if they prove themselves competent, can be considered professional licencees and take responsibility for a specific type of work.

            As you stated, self regulated professions or associations are far from perfect, but I feel that in my case, the one(s) to which I belong do the best job they can under the circumstances, and they do a fair job of regulating the profession.

            That long windedness all done with, I agree with you that it can be hard to effect change from the bottom or the middle. A competent person working within the morass of regulation, accountants, profit expectations, pressure to cut corners, etc, is in for rough time.

            Putting engineers in charge wholesale isn’t the answer of course, I know how I think, and know I would need someone to temper my very analytically black and white way of looking at problems. Collaboratively developed management plans that focus on profit (for if you’re not profitable, you no longer operate) that don’t sacrifice technical excellent would of course be best, but pretty rare. Sadly. I guess I am naive enough to try and push for this wherever I am.

          • 0 avatar

            > This comes from your often using the term “engineer” with the quotation marks in response to people stating they have proficiency or knowledge on a certain subject.

            The air-quotes for those proclaiming proficiency but demonstrate none; same for computer “experts”, legal “authorities”, etc. OTOH discussion between those who know what’s up is unfortunately rare and thus valuable.

            Your association true to their Canadianness seems reasonable and moderates what guilds like the AMA are known for (eg artificially limiting admission and petition states for addition 3 year edu requirements for intl docs).

            > Putting engineers in charge wholesale isn’t the answer of course, I know how I think, and know I would need someone to temper my very analytically black and white way of looking at problems.

            A lot of the problems in private industry are associated with the technically proficient behaving too timid for their level of understanding. I mean, people with barely any clue of how things work put themselves and peers in important positions with certain pride of being “deciders”.

            It’s hard to imagine the actually competent make worse decisions in aggregate than monkeys with a dartboard.

        • 0 avatar
          Erikstrawn

          It sounds like GM’s engineers have been so cowed by the accountants that they can be badgered into signing off on parts they aren’t confident in, and their supervision doesn’t have the guts to stand up for them. It also sounds like there was resistance to truly fixing the root cause of the problem because it would “cost too much”. Finally, it sounds like when poo hits the fan, they’re the first to get thrown in front of the bus. If the company isn’t going to shield them they’ll need a thorough CYA file.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Now remind me again why working for the likes of GM is such a great job ?”

      Company paid hoonage mostly.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    So which engineering website gives an in-depth, concise definition of “falling apart”? Apparently GM uses some kind of super-secret SAE specs the rest of us plebeians don’t get to access.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    “paid leave” sounds like quite a punishment… staying at home while getting paid….

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Does that not make GM’s engineer count now zero?

    The few GM engineers I had the pleasure of knowing had some rather four letter word decorated remarks when the word “management” was mentioned.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I kinda agree with that snark. The only real “engineers” I’ve ever encountered from GM came from the Powertrain group. Those dudes were as smart and resourceful as anyone I’ve met from the Japanese or German makes. Everyone else I’ve encountered with an “engineering” title at GM… just barely passable as engineers and more focused on product cost than product quality. Sad.

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