The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced it is making its first ever whistleblower award. The U.S. regulatory body has decided to give over $24 million to a whistleblower providing information related to Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America. While not named by the NHTSA, it’s undoubtedly talking about Kim Gwang-ho — a South Korean engineer who flew to Washington in 2016 to squeal that his employer had been skirting safety regulations.
Armed with an internal report from Hyundai’s quality control team, Kim told the NHTSA the company was not taking sufficient action to address a presumed engine defect that increased the risk of crashes. It looks like the decision paid off for him, too. Hyundai Motor Group was struck with sizable regulatory penalties and Kim is now getting a huge payout from U.S. regulators right before the Department of Transportation proposes updated regulations pertaining to the automotive whistleblower program Congress created in 2015.
Tesla keeps insisting it’s going to show the automotive industry how to do things differently. The company’s make-or-break Model 3 was put into production without any pilot assembly or validation prototypes. Tesla is also more vertically integrated than traditional automakers these days. It owns its own stores and it makes many of its own parts. So far, with the EV maker as of yet unable to really get mass production underway on the new sedan, the jury is out on Tesla’s strategies.
CNBC now reports current and former Tesla workers saying almost half of the parts made at or produced for the EV startup’s Fremont, California assembly plant don’t meet production standards, forcing rework and end-of-line repairs, as well as impairing morale in the facility.
This raises the question of whether Tesla will be able to mass-produce vehicles in the quantities associated with automotive mass production: hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year. Tesla needs to be able to build and sell its Model 3 at those numbers to be a viable firm.
To say General Motors has a failure to communicate among itself and with the outside is an understatement that grows with each passing day, especially in light of how it treated a whistleblower in 2003 over its handling of a recall regarding fuel leaks in the automaker’s line of compact SUVs.
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