Can General Motors still make good cars?
Could they ever?
This afternoon, its new CEO, Mary Barra, will try to explain to a Congressional oversight panel why GM fought so hard to save its own life during the financial crisis, even as the company stayed silent for a decade when it had the chance to save the lives of drivers. GM has recalled more than 6m produced between 2005 and 2014 – including three new recalls over the past week – in a series of moves that reveal sprawling, systemic corporate incompetence.
“Today’s GM will do the right thing,” Barra will say under oath, according to her prepared remarks. But there is a dark undercurrent to her words, which will only highlight a truth that is no longer excusable: General Motors spent over a decade misleading the public about mechanical failures in its cars, working to create the false image of a rehabilitated powerhouse of American industry.
It’s instructive to examine, in one place, the scale of GM’s failure to make safe cars over the past 10 years. The company’s production standards didn’t just fall; they were low for a long time. GM didn’t make just one mistake: from ignition to transmission to power steering to air bags, it failed at many points to assemble reliable, working cars.
Overall, GM has recalled 6.3m cars over the past couple of months – so far. The range of makes and model years present an impressively sprawling display of incompetence:
- 1.6m Chevy Cobalts had faulty ignition switches that would turn off the car’s engine if bumped by the driver’s knee and which may have caused 12 deaths.
- 1.3m Chevy Traverses with faulty airbags.
- Another 700,000 cars – ranging from Chevy Silverados to GMC Sierras and Yukons – had loose transmission lines that could cause fires.
- A batch of Chevy Cruzes had a problem in which the front wheels might lose power, even though the engine would keep going.
- Over 300,000 GMC Savana and Chevy Express vans were recalled by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration over other airbag problems. (GM built those vans between 2009 and 2014, the same years the company was creating a victorious comeback narrative around its bankruptcy.)
- Just yesterday, the company issued a wider recall of 1.3m Chevy, Saturn and Pontiac cars for power steering issues.
Then there are cars GM didn’t bother recall: 2005-vintage Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac Pursuits, which had incorrectly wired airbags that could inflate so aggressively that they would injure, not help, the driver and passenger during a crash. GM chose instead to send a mildly-worded note to dealers, according to one report.
GM isn’t legally liable for the problems with its cars before 2009, because the bankruptcy wiped out its responsibility. But there’s plenty more to answer for, after the bailout. The range of cars includes those made in 2005 all the way up to 2013, 2014 and 2015 models.
This isn’t your grandfather’s GM. It’s Barrack Obama’s. Great line at the end of the article:
“I want you to know that we are completely focused on the problem at the highest levels of the company,” Barra has said. “That is how we want today’s GM to be judged; how we handle the recall will be an important test of that commitment.”
That’s a nice redefinition. How GM handles the recall is a secondary concern at this late stage. More important is how GM handles the manufacture of American cars…
If you buy a car from Government Motors (yes, I still call ’em that), you have chosen…poorly. Meanwhile, our beloved federal Imperium’s harassment of one of their (non-union) competitors over a phony “issue” is ongoing:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota Motor Corp., concluding a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker’s disclosure of safety problems, according to a person close to the investigation.
Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, were announcing the settlement Wednesday morning, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the settlement on the record before the announcement.
In a statement early Wednesday, Toyota said it has “cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s office in this matter for more than four years” and had “made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements.”
Translation from the PR-ese: “Please don’t hurt us anymore or put us out of business entirely, Mr Gangster Government thug. We’ll do whatever you want, we promise.”
Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the U.S., totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats. From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling more than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause.
The negotiations come less than two months after an Oklahoma jury awarded $3 million in damages to the injured driver of a 2005 Camry and to the family of a passenger who was killed.
The ruling was significant because Toyota had won all previous unintended acceleration cases that went to trial. It was also the first case where attorneys for plaintiffs argued that the car’s electronics — in this case the software connected to a midsize Camry’s electronic throttle-control system — were the cause of the unintended acceleration.
Toyota has blamed drivers, stuck accelerators or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the acceleration claims that led to the big recalls of Camrys and other vehicles. The company has repeatedly denied its vehicles are flawed.
That’s because they aren’t; the morons driving them were, and were looking for an excuse to get them out from under responsibility for their own dumbassery. The “unintended acceleration” canard is a crock of shit, and always was.
No recalls have been issued related to problems with onboard electronics. In the Oklahoma case, Toyota attorneys theorized that the driver mistakenly pumped the gas pedal instead of the brake when her Camry ran through an intersection and slammed into an embankment.
Bingo. Problem identified: exists between steering wheel and seat back. Now go out and get yourself one of those fine, fine Obamamobiles instead, folks; why, they’re backed by the full faith and credit of the United States’ Imperial Government! For what that’s worth.