• Nov 21, 2007
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]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 38 Comments
      Matt Moore
      • 3 Years Ago
      06 vibe great car; untill my engine block started leaking coolant. 58k no pontiac help gm dealer reluctant
      vssjim
      • 7 Years Ago
      Above the one posting says how much trouble he had with his engine brakes and everything but you can't blame Nummi for that as most parts like brakes, engine and starters on these cars are all Jap parts and nothing to do with Nummi as they install what suppliers Toyota are in favor of mostly, only a few North American suppliers are any way connected like a Harrison/Delphi radiators which I have never had to replace one unlike NipponDenso starters which quit all the time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Once again, we're reminded that a corporation is a corporation is a corporation. Profit trumps EVERYTHING.
      • 7 Years Ago

      So I guess Toyota might be regretting its decision to grow so fast.
        • 7 Years Ago
        ya hang out with the dogs, your bound to get fleas.


        • 7 Years Ago
        Given Toy's loss of control over reality, a lot of people are realizing what a number of us knew already: that Toy never made a worthwhile vehicle and relied heavily on trade inequity and misinformation to become what it is today.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Except hanging out with GM is not quite like hanging out with a dog. Its more like making sweet sweet unprotected love with a herpes-infested leper.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Yeah, but this plant has been around for a long time, prior to all of its current growth related issues.

        It is Toyota that runs its production system at this plant so I don't think this dog has any fleas from hooking up with GM... it may have gotten into the garbage on its own, eaten something bad and it is now pooping out Toyota made CRAP!! ha ha
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've worked at multiple assembly plants for Ford and GM, including NUMMI. I have a seriously hard time believing this story at face value. The people I know bust their pick to make vehicles to the highest quality standards. That's the only way a company is going to survive these days.
      • 7 Years Ago
      She seems to be a defect-obsessed maniac who is currently observed by a psychiatrist, and who wants millions to calm down her "stress".

      How did she find out that the brakes were inadequate?
      Maybe, from complaints of those drivers who installed inadequate tires or changed the brake pads to the cheapest ones.
      • 5 Years Ago
      will we the employees receive some kind of severance pay on our exit review day?
      • 7 Years Ago
      who got accused of passing a joint?
      • 7 Years Ago
      The corolla has alwas got high marks on CR. So its hard to belive that any more than a few bad cars could come out of that plant
      • 7 Years Ago
      I did quality checks here a few weeks ago and while I did see very few defects, they were fixed immediately and did not affect the car's quality after being fixed. Once it reaches the end of the line, it's either driven to the shipping yard or repair area depending on if there's defects or not. If she was working a quality check station farther from the end of the line, then I see how she could have the idea that the cars were shipped with defects as sometimes they are passed on since it's not possible to stop the line to fix some of them (scratches, dents, etc). These just have to wait until the repair area to be fixed, but they are fixed regardless-it's documented as well so the person knows what to fix. (I don't want to say anything that leaves the idea defects are ignored and shipped...they aren't.) I've also worked on the line a bit and have never seen any worker here intentionally pass on something they know is messed up-if they see something, it's called out. The other catch to this is that something as simple as a piece of tape can be counted as a defect. In all, I wonder what her actual view, not the writers view, is.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So I'll throw in my few cents to pick this story apart:

      I recently worked at NUMMI. I know the quality management firsthand. NONE of them would allow any of this to happen knowingly, let alone encourage hiding it.

      For someone to be demoted 2 positions (as it says in the AP article), they'd have to be demoted from a salaried position to an hourly job, or from management down to a lower salaried position. Neither of these EVER HAPPEN, especially when the person involved has worked at the plant for 23 years (which, by the way, is as long as the plant has been open as NUMMI). Literally, it doesn't happen.

      Additionally, to comment on the high workload at some stations, production workers rotate through 4 jobs a day for exactly this reason. And the only possible quality stations this person would have been involved in are offline inspections anyway, so the workload is moot.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Go figure! Our NUMMI built '96 Corolla was a mess! Engine, brake, electrical, AC issues - and interior pieces breaking left and right. At 80K, and many $$$ and warranty fights later, my wife and I had enough. Hyundai won out over all the others at the time we replaced it, and our Elantra has been problem free to date at 61K. Toyota will never be a part of our furture!
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