Robustness and Reliability of the GM Ignition Switch ...

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International Symposium on Robust Design (ISoRD'14) Technical University of Denmark, DTU

Robustness and Reliability of the GM Ignition Switch - A forensic Engineering case
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Author:Tobias Eifler (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DTU, Denmark)
Jonas Lerche Olesen (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DTU, Denmark)
Thomas J. Howard (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DTU, Denmark)
Date: 2014-08-14     Track: Main     Session: 13:00-17:00 Robust Design Workshop: A forensic engineering case
DOI:10.4122/dtu:2086

This paper uses forensic engineering from the perspectives of Robust Design and Reliability Engineering to review one of the most infamous recalls in automotive history, that of the GM ignition switch. The design, engineering and management failures in this case ultimately resulted in a fine of $35 million, the recall of 2.6 million vehicles and the death of at least 13 people. In a systematic approach, design clarity, tolerance stack-ups, sensitivity analysis, etc. are used to analyse the ignition switch itself and to extend the usual consideration of reliability issues to the impact of variation on the design. In addition to this quantitative analysis, the legal case files have been examined revealing multiple misjudgments and errors throughout the product development process. The analysis revealed a lack of overview regarding to interrelated functionality, a lack of respect for the requirement specification and clarity in the specification itself, and finally a culture of silence rather than confrontation and remedy.