The sad reality is that most crashes involve a driver's mistake. Often it is as simple as driving at a speed that was excessive for the conditions. Most injuries could be dramatically lessened if everybody would just use the seat belt every single time they get into a car.
And don't even get me started on the topic of drunk driving in Germany, if you are convicted, you simply never drive again, and if you do, or if your drunk driving injured someone, you spend years in jail. If we in America don't get serious about this, we've gotten the fatality count about as low as we can.
We expect that in the overwhelming number of cases an EDR would help us prove the car functioned perfectly. The issues that remain to be solved with EDRs involve data protection and personal privacy, and we hope the federal rule-making will shed light on these difficult issues.
DR: What are your biggest regulatory challenges?
JF: I think virtually every general counsel today interacts often with government, and that surely is true in an industry as highly regulated as the car business. Our principal agency relationships are with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Transport Canada, the Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada and the California Air Resources Board.
Porsche has always enjoyed a very cordial, businesslike and mutually respectful relationship with the regulators. It is very time-consuming and technical but fundamentally not difficult: We do our level best to comply with every regulation. When we have a question, we ask; when we think we may have an issue in the future, we try to give early warning; and we meet periodically to update each other.
We also have had very significant government interaction at the state and local level the last two years, as we have developed our new North American corporate headquarters and its integral Porsche Driving Experience Center immediately adjacent to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
DR: What was your experience developing your new corporate headquarters?
JF: On this topic, I have to say that I have never in my career experienced more positive, helpful and essential assistance from government agencies. This project entails several jurisdictions the City of Atlanta, the City of Hapeville, unincorporated Fulton County, unincorporated Clayton County and in various respects is under the oversight of several other agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Environmental Protection Department, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Atlanta Department of Aviation.
Three years ago, I was afraid the obstacles would be insurmountable. It turns out that every single person we met in every federal, state and local government office truly said, "How can we help?" Not only that, but they meant it! To name just a very few, we had frequent direct involvement, commitment and assistance from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed,Hapeville Mayor Alan Hallman, FAA Regional Administrator Doug Murphy, Georgia Economic Development Director Chris Cummiskey, Georgia Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty and Atlanta Aviation Department General Manager Louis Miller.
Our project would never have happened without the personal involvement of these people and the really great people on their staffs, like Blair Lewis at Economic Development and Vivica Brown at the airport. Every economic development agency in the country talks about how "business friendly" they are, but in Georgia and in Atlanta, it is really, really true. We plan returning the favor by being a great corporate citizen here for decades to come.
DR: How do you use outside counsel?
JF: A department as small as ours has no choice but to use outside counsel, even though I must say I hate giving interesting work to other people! We try, but do not always succeed, to handle everything inside except active litigation and "one off" projects outside our expertise.
Our strategy is to staff for the valleys, not for the peaks, and to staff for our core, recurring business needs. This means that we mostly handle internally all our nonlitigated dealer, employee, financial services, consumer protection, trade regulation, consumer complaint and commercial matters.
We engage outside counsel for the defense of litigated matters of all types, for special projects (like the real estate and environmental issues associated with the headquarters project) and for topics that one simply does not touch if one does not do them full time (like immigration). We typically choose boutique specialists, both for expertise and efficiency, and we try to use consistently a small network of firms in exchange for excellent commitments regarding quality, service and price.
The firms we chose for our headquarters project are Withrow, McQuade & Olsen and The Galloway Law Group. Our local employment matters are handled by Ellarbee Thompson.