An open dealogue might clear up U.S. airbag mess
General Motors wishes Leonard Evans would keep quiet. Yet we need to hear more from the likes of him.
Evans, a GM research scientist and expert on airbag safety, has gone public with his views on airbags. Those views - in public testimony and newspaper essays - contradict GM's corporate stance.
Evans says he believes airbags work for too few people. He says making them less powerful, as automakers will begin doing this year, will help some people but will hurt even more. The federal mandate should be lifted, he argues. If people want airbags, let them order airbags as an option.
GM, of course, disagrees. The company concedes airbags can be hazardous. But the benefits far outweigh the risks when people fasten their safety belts and put their kids in the back seat.
We applaud Evans' courage, but we take issue with him on two fronts.
First, his point that he speaks as a public citizen is amusing. He would have you believe that his March appearance before the National Transportation Safety Board had nothing to do with his reputation as a safety expert.
Second, whatever his motives, he is undermining his employer. It's good for a president and his national security adviser to debate; it's bad for an administration to air its internal battles on 'Meet the Press.'
Washington issues, by nature, are black and white. On airbags, for more than two decades, it has been the regulators vs. automakers vs. safety advocates. Yet the issue is as gray as ever.
If only everyone could admit that there are no easy answers - that it's time to drop the posturing and seek solutions. We need a climate that allows the Leonard Evanses of the world to speak out - with no fear of reprimand. They just might have enough answers to put the great American airbag debacle to rest.
Hats off to NADA
A tip of the hat to the National Automobile Dealers Association, which soon will add two women and two minority dealers to its board of directors. They will bring a needed note of diversity and a fresh perspective to a group that now is made up of 58 white males.
The other major dealer organization, the American International Automobile Dealers Association, shares our congratulations. Last February, AIADA added three women directors to the two already serving, and also elected two African Americans and one Hispanic to its board.
We hope the automakers and suppliers are watching and thinking. The industry includes tens of thousands of women and minority personnel, but precious few in policy-making posts or positions of real authority.