A certified auditor working at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in California that's run jointly by General Motors and Toyota has stepped forward to file a lawsuit alleging that her managers knowingly permitted defects on cars to go unfixed. Katy Cameron claims that her superiors routinely overlooked problems including broken seat belts, faulty headlights, inadequate braking, mirrors falling off, engine oil leaks and steering wheel alignment problems, though there's no evidence that any of these have resulted in an accident. Cameron's lawsuit not only alleges that her managers failed to report these defects, but that she was also routinely harassed for being a whistleblower. The Associated Press reports that she is now on medical leave receiving treatment for stress, depression and other mental problems resulting from being mistreated at the NUMMI plant.
The NUMMI plant produces the Toyota Corolla, Toyota Tacoma and Pontiac Vibe, and while it's considered a joint-venture between Toyota and GM, the plant is run using Toyota's manufacturing process. From what we can tell, it operates much like a training ground where GM managers can go to learn Japanese manufacturing techniques. Thus, these allegations appear to be aimed more at Toyota than GM. The response from Toyota has been that it's "tackling quality problems as a top priority," while GM wasn't aware of the lawsuit at the time the linked article was written.
Toyota's sterling reputation for quality has been tarnished lately with recalls becoming more common and Consumer Reports removing a few of the Japanese automaker's vehicles from its recommended list. We imagine their must be tremendous pressure at the plant level to fix any quality issues that arise, which could encourage managers to make some questionable decisions. While we don't know for sure what happened at the NUMMI plant in California, the idea that some managers would choose to hide defects rather than report them doesn't seem that far fetched considering the pressure to be perfect.
[Source: AP via Wheels.ca via ImportCarCanada, photo via Inside Line]