Thought Exercise: Automobile Defect

You work for a large automobile manufacturer. You have been leading a project to build a state-of-the-art hybrid pickup truck for almost eight years.

About a year and a half ago, your company began a massive marketing campaign, costing the company tens of millions of dollars. The company expects to make all of its costs back and more, though, because the trucks are rolling off the manufacturing lines and advance orders are through the roof. The vehicle will be sold in dealerships across the country starting on the second Saturday of next month.

You believe that this vehicle has a fuel tank design defect, though, making it susceptible to fire in the event of moderate-speed rear-end collisions. Internal testing supports your conclusion.

Your boss, and, as far as you can tell, everybody up the chain of command, knows of this defect. However, the company has run the risk assessment numbers and here are the results: It would be cheaper to market the truck and pay any litigation costs and damages associated with injury or death resulting from the defect than it would be to delay production and correct the problem.

What do you do?