General Motors is setting the bar high for employee accountability. “Your Mileage May Vary” is not enough when someone purposely misrepresents vehicle emissions data.
What most of us perceive as fuel savings when we look at fuel efficiency, fuel-vs-distance [mpg, ℓ/100km, etc], is really just another way of determining vehicle emissions. After all, the less fuel your engine burns, the fewer emissions it will generate, so it is a logical and easy-to-understand measurement that we can apply and appreciate every time we fill up at the pump.
Many manufacturers have found themselves caught in the “Your Mileage May Vary” trap, both in the US and abroad. While most of this can be attributed to perhaps overly optimistic testing standards or testing standards that don’t reflect real-world driving close enough, it is another thing altogether to purposely manipulate the numbers to make it pass vehicle emissions standards.
For example, in order to make the Chevy Sail hatchback and Tavara SUV in India pass vehicle emissions standards, engineers and executives purposely fudged the numbers. Sure, it looked good on paper, but the reality is that the Sail and Tavara don’t cut the mustard, at least not the ones that are in production.
The vehicles that were inspected did meet India’s vehicle emissions standards, but only because they’d be tuned specifically to generate fewer emissions. Some engineers apparently misrepresented the weight of some models, as well, so they would fall into a different emissions bracket. The test vehicles looked and sounded like the production vehicles, so officials were none the wiser until production.
General Motors’ hard stance became known this week when it sacked 40yr veteran employee Sam Winegarden, Vice-President of Global Engine Engineering, as well as about ten engineers under him in both the US and India. This sets the bar pretty high for other automakers, all of whom are striving to build vehicles that meet vehicle emissions standards in the countries in which they operate.
Holding a few people accountable for such an error is one thing, but the whole situation is likely to cost General Motors millions of dollars in recalls, retooling, production-stoppage, and fines. My take-away on all of this is that automakers need to be very careful in submitting vehicle emissions data honestly, perhaps erring on the side of caution instead of optimism.