How General Motors Re-Engineered the Dictionary

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

General Motors instructed its engineers to soften the language they used in reporting possible mechanical problems.

The company discouraged words including “safety” and “defect” when describing product risks and even explicitly told them to avoid using terms such as “widow-maker” and “Hindenburg.” Documents used during a 2008 technical learning symposium were released by the U.S. government, exposing a dangerous corporate culture that frowns on finding potentially costly flaws.

Yesterday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration slapped GM with a $35 million fine – the maximum allowable penalty – for its delayed response to the ignition switch recall.

SEE ALSO: GM Fined $35M for Dawdling on Ignition Switch Recall

Examples found in the documents include GM advising its engineers to use “does not perform to design” rather than “defect” and “condition” instead of “problem.” General Motors has issued a statement stating that the company’s culture has changed since the 2008 training session and has cited a program GM it has put in to encourage candid conversation about safety issues among GM engineers.

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[Source: Automotive News]

Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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