MCLEAN, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 23: Traffic converges on highway I-495 South just west of the nation's capital on one of the busiest travel days of the year November 23, 2011 in McLean, Virginia. The American Automobile Association projects that 42.5 million people are likely to drive, fly, or take the train to their Thanksgiving gatherings, the largest number since the beginning of the recession. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Automobiles are always in the news. Gas mileage, safety issues, recalls, pollution, the list never ends. So what is the automobile manufacturer’s responsibility to the general public?

In most parts to the nation the automobile is a top tier necessity for a quality lifestyle. Whether it’s taking kids to soccer practice or moving goods across country, the invention of the automobile has changed society from the horse and buggy days.

Safety First?

Seat belts, air bags, automatic breaking, and other innovations have made automobile travel safer. But have other regulations and restrictions made us less safe?

I can remember being able to walk on car fenders when I was a kid and never making a dent. I doubt that’s possible with today’s vehicles.

In a quest for higher gas mileage to meet government standards, today’s vehicles are lighter in weight and almost identical in aerodynamic design. Plastics and aluminum have replaces the steel cages we used to sit in many years ago.

Even the smallest fender bender results in a huge payday for the auto body shop. It’s the unintended consequences of regulation.

Design Flaws?

Designing an automobile has to be a daunting task. Millions of parts all designed to specific specifications that all fit together and work as a single unit — pretty amazing when you think about it.

But, as we saw with Toyota and their sudden acceleration problems one small design flaw can make the entire car a safety hazard. All the testing in the world won’t reveal every possible contingency.

Some Final Thoughts

Auto manufacturers have a right to a fair profit on their products. But we expect to be able to get from point A to point B economically and safely.

As a company do I have to do the bear minimum in safety in order to maximize profits or is there a sweet spot somewhere in-between where it becomes a win-win for both parties?