Hooniverse Asks: Which automotive scandal is the largest?

Carlos Ghosn is the chairman of Nissan, CEO of Renault, and board chair at Mitsubishi. And on Monday, he was brought in for questioning by Japanese officials who boarded his corporate jet at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Nissan alleges that Ghosn underreported his income between 2011 and 2015.
The alleged amount of income in question is rather large. Ghosn says he earned $44.3 million during that time. The actual number appears to be $88.8 million. Right now, he hasn’t officially been charged with a crime. According to the New York Times, prosecutors have 72 hours to assess the case. If necessary, and pending court approval, they can request an additional 20 days.
This is a very big deal. Ghosn has been a mostly beloved leader to the teams at Nissan and Renault. By cutting costs and refocusing company efforts, Ghosn led a turnaround for both brands that started decades ago. And now his place in history could fall down in flames.
This isn’t the largest automotive scandal though. There have been others as large, or larger. Dieselgate springs to mind. The Ford Pinto and Ford Explorer were black marks for the blue oval. What else is there? What’s the largest automotive scandal that stands out in your mind?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

33 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Which automotive scandal is the largest?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    Takata airbags is probably the biggest in number of cars and manufacturers affected. It took down the whole company.

    1. JayP Avatar

      I go in Friday for the passenger bag replace 2 years after the drivers.
      I was getting letters, postcards, calls, you name it almost daily for a while.
      It seems that notifying owners and scheduling replacements has kicked up a substantial cottage-like industry.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        The Federal lawsuit said the passenger side airbag in my 2011 Silverado was supposed to be replaced by September 2017. I still haven’t gotten a notice saying to bring it in.

      2. outback_ute Avatar

        A couple of states here won’t let owners renew their car registration if they don’t get them replaced, there are some who have ignored all the communications and requests from manufacturers.
        It is not as if the worst case scenario is the airbag doesn’t work.

        1. JayP Avatar

          It’s the metal flying thru skin when it works is the issue.
          When I look up carfax on cars, it stated whether there is any type of recall. I bought my Mustang from a used non-Ford dealer and they could have had the recall done but didn’t. Left it to the new owner.

          1. outback_ute Avatar

            Yep, there was a fatal incident here in Australia earlier in the year. As I say, you might be better off if the airbag didn’t fire…
            I’m not sure how a dealer would fare here selling a car with a compulsory recall not done, but it is pretty poor form for the want of a little time.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Is there a plot showing the further development including the time after the split? Or the same for the Fiat merger?

        1. Vairship Avatar

          Yes, Fiat has recovered but the US parts not so much. Chrysler in particular (which used to have a full line-up) only has a (decent) minivan and the (very old) 300 (basically a refresh of the 2005 car). You can’t run a brand on one-and-a-half models for very long…

  2. tonyola Avatar

    If you can distill it down to a scandal, I would say the management of British Leyland (and whatever else it was called) since 1967 would be the biggest, since it helped to destroy the mass-market British automotive industry.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Austin, Morris, Wolseley, Riley, MG, Pincess, Vanden Plas, Albion, AEC, Bristol Bus, Guy, Scammel, Leyland, Nuffield Press, Standard, Triumph, Rover, Alvis, Jaguar, Daimler, Lanchester, Coventry Climax, Aveling Barford, Pressed Steel Co, Prestcold, Self Changing Gears, Unipart, DAB, Innocenti, and Authi were all brands from BMH/BMC/BLMC over time.
      They’re all gone now apart from Jaguar, MG, Aveling Barford, Leyland Trucks, Alvis, Unipart, and the Land Rover and Range Rover parts of Rover Cars and of course Mini which BMW kept and made the caricature their own.
      What were the largest bus and truck manufacturers in the world are no more or just shadows of their former selves, and more tellingly most not owned by British owners.
      Morgan is now the largest British OWNED car company.

  3. neight428 Avatar

    Carmakers and politicians, take your pick…

  4. JayP Avatar

    Elio Motors.

    1. Manxman Avatar

      At least 2 people I know put down deposits on Elios years ago. I doubt that they will ever see their money again, certainly not a vehicle. Didn’t this happen before? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2c32654f48e82605db5834d617e3a53e75b5d24088db03bd253dc7dda6385eb0.png

      1. Monkey10is Avatar

        Hey! I still have complete confidence in Mrs. Carmichael — the lovely lady who took my deposit for a new 70mpg Dale.
        Please don’t disillusion me…

  5. Maymar Avatar

    Not necessarily the biggest (Dieselgate might still take that one for quite some time), but GM hiring prostitutes to try and smear Ralph Nader’s character seems like it should have been a bigger thing,

    1. nanoop Avatar

      They tried sending prostitutes to their opponent? Lame, Volkswagen sent their works council board members to the prostitutes.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Yup, as per Wikipedia;
        “Nader says that GM responded to his criticism of the Corvair by trying to destroy Nader’s image and to silence him. It “(1) conducted a series of interviews with acquaintances of the plaintiff, ‘questioning them about, and casting aspersions upon [his] political, social, racial and religious views; his integrity; his sexual proclivities and inclinations; and his personal habits’; (2) kept him under surveillance in public places for an unreasonable length of time; (3) caused him to be accosted by girls for the purpose of entrapping him into illicit relationships; (4) made threatening, harassing and obnoxious telephone calls to him; (5) tapped his telephone and eavesdropped, by means of mechanical and electronic equipment, on his private conversations with others; and (6) conducted a ‘continuing’ and harassing investigation of him.”[9]
        On March 22, 1966, GM President James Roche was forced to appear before a United States Senate subcommittee, and to apologize to Nader for the company’s campaign of harassment and intimidation. Nader sued GM in November 1966 for invasion of privacy.[9][7] Nader won the case on appeal in January 1970, being paid $425,000 which enabled him to create the Center for Auto Safety. He went on to lobby for consumer rights, helping drive the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, among others.[10]”

  6. crank_case Avatar

    I reckon it’s hard to top Dieselgate, because its ripples go way beyond even the behemoth that is VAG itself. The German state of Lower Saxony was a major shareholder, which suggests a major conflict of interest in terms of governance.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Plus one, plus one.
      Don’t over-estimate the role of Lower Saxony, it is, as you say, a national thing:
      VAG with its production sites in south Germany (Audi, Porsche), and currently serving as political sentinel for Mercedes and BMW, is well covered by the minister of transportation from Bavaria who just canceled a EU-wide conference on how to proceed with it., a systematic delay for years. He’s only the current one in a list of persons with questionable intermingling with the Automachers. More examples:
      * Matthias Wiessmann became open car lobbyist only weeks after he resigned. They created a law because of him.
      * Wolfgang Tiefensee used invalid data for reducing the leverage of speed limits on CO2 emissions
      * Alexander Dobrinth personally blocked the possibility of a class action against VW. Lawyers paid by lobby associations wrote his draft laws.
      Those are members of the CDU/CSU, parties with support from Quandt family… It’s not that the SPD ministers were clean, but those tend to do their questionable stuff without the car industry.
      That VW got caught is good, but it’s amazing how close all the other automakers are not accused. If you speak German, read the press announcement of BMW that they are not using defeat devices: the wording is so highly accurate and complicated, they are clearly aware that they are BSing customers based on laxly written laws.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      For all the claims of protecting the environment with emissions testing vehicles for 25 years in my state, Georgia, USA, diesels are exempt from all emissions testing. It is technically illegal under Federal law to alter emissions systems (roll coal), but there is no check. If you want to street drive a new car with a flame spitting top fuel drag motor, just buy a car with a diesel VIN and it will never have to pass an emissions test. I know that this is true in several states. I remember back in the 1990s it was a thing to take one of the horrible GM diesel cars and drop a hot gasoline engine in it and not worry about catalytic converters and such.

  7. crank_case Avatar

    As a side note, surely the warning signs were there when Ghosn killed off the Silvia/S-body under the guise of cost cutting. No normal human being would kill off such a hooliganmobile, it’s like the replicant test in blade runner.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      It doesn’t seem Ghosn was a car guy, and that he nearly killed the Renault F1 team

    2. nanoop Avatar

      I can’t see his retina in the photographs, though.

  8. Manxman Avatar

    I think it’s a shame that Porsche didn’t issue a recall for the IMS bearing scandal. Hundai/Kia is recalling models with a certain 4 cylinder engine. The entire Hundai/Kia car costs less than a Porsche engine yet a maker of inexpensive cars stands by its products while a prestige brand basically tells owners with cars out of warranty to sod off.

    1. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      Great comparison–spot on! Eff the Germans….their vaunted “German Reliability” is as robust as wet tissue paper.

      1. Manxman Avatar

        I’ve got to learn how to spell Hyundai.

  9. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    GM…the whole thing, for the past half century.
    Mid 60’s full sizers: undersized tires to reduce production costs a few nickels.
    Vega: Faulty wet sleeve engines, pre-rusted cowls….sun meltable interiors
    Olds Diesel: Broken crankshafts, poor fuel management (water infiltrations) insufficient head bolts
    Cadillac V8-6-4: Piss poor engine management systems
    Cadillac H4100 engines: Hopeless from day 1
    Cadillac Northstar: Headgasket nightmares
    And,of course, the Real People, Not Actors Marketing campaign: https://youtu.be/d03svtYlFm8
    GM customers were viewed as beta testers, but without the benefit of advising customers of the arrangment..
    Many more “Deadly Sins” here: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/category/gm-deadly-sin-2/

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The ignition switch one is more egregious than most, most of them just cost money.

      1. Harry Callahan Avatar
        Harry Callahan

        Point taken….but if we were to catalog the problems at GM, we would never have time to discuss anything else.

        1. Manxman Avatar

          Don’t get me started on marketing. They killed one of their most popular and second safest auto in America, the Fiero. A clean sheet design with an advanced monocoque chassis and dent proof body panels. Built in completely updated factory specifically for the Fiero. It sold like hot cakes but the Chevy division complained that it took sales away from Corvette. Instead of developing it into a world class car they let it die. Good going GM.

  10. Satan McVillain Avatar
    Satan McVillain

    Preston Tucker would like a word.