Six years ago, Hemanth Kappanna was part of a team of engineering students that raised the first red flags about Volkswagen Group’s diesel cheating. This past February, his employer, General Motors, laid him off.
The hero engineer made headlines for his work with other students for bringing VW’s diesel emissions scandal to the forefront. Today, VW Group has spent over $33 billion in fixes, buybacks, and fines after its cheat was discovered. Although he and his fellow students didn’t accuse VW of any wrongdoing, it was Kappanna’s work that brought the emissions scandal to light for California and U.S. regulators to take notice. The New York Times reported on Kappanna’s doings since then, and on his eventual dismissal from GM.
The engineer was part of a team in Milford, Michigan, that communicated GM’s doing with the EPA. He worked to ensure the automaker met stringent requirements the government imposed following the VW scandal, ironically. Yet, GM named him as one of the thousands of white-collar workers laid off from their positions earlier this year. The layoffs were part of a North American restructuring as GM looks to save billions come next decade. The layoffs also coincided with four U.S. plants idling and thousands of blue-collar positions eliminated.
Kappanna said in the story he wonders if he was seen as too compliant with federal regulators, which may have placed him on the layoff list. He said he very well could have been seen as biased, though there’s zero proof and Kappanna isn’t claiming as such. The engineer, born in India, was on a work visa while part of GM. Since he was unable to find a new job before a 60-day grace period, he had to return to India after spending half of his life in the U.S.
He hopes to one day find a new position within the auto industry, though amid a projected slowdown, Kappanna remains skeptical.
Source: The New York Times