Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Aww....just throw it out there. They'll buy it.

 Dad had a pale yellow one with a black vinyl roof.
I was raised in a GM house.  My dad always bought General Motors automobiles.  We at one time or another had them all, from Chevy Impalas to Cadillac Land Yachts.  Dad wouldn't have owned a Ford or a Chrysler if you gave it to him.

So when it came time for me to spend my money for a car all I knew was GM.  My first car (bought with dad's money) was a used Mustang....a non-GM product, because it was cheap.  But with MY money I bought a brand new 1971 Camaro SS 350.  

In short order I followed that with an Olds Cutlass, a Toronado (what was I thinking?) a couple of sporty Buicks, and then it dawned on me:  they're junk.  (I since have moved on to Honda's, Mazda's and Audi's, with excellent success.)

That was the low point of GM products.  For years their market share had gone up and up and they got fat, dumb, and lazy.  They could roll out any old thing and people would just throw money at them.

That's what happens when the bean counters get the upper hand over the engineers.  No doubt GM had the know-how to build fine cars.  But when they'd come up with something really good the accountants would tell them to make it cheaper, use thinner plastic, find some supplier from deeper in some Third World jungle, or whatever they had to do to save a few pennies.  They shot themselves in the foot. Their reputation went down the tube. 

Enter the Age of The Public Relations guys.

You want to improve your image?  Just build a car that can stay glued together for 90 days.  That's all....just 90 days. If you can do that, JD Power will put your name on a trophy.  GM filled up a trophy room with 'em.  Ta-da!  Quality improved, reputation fixed, problem solved.

"Crash?  What crash?  I didn't see a crash" said one GM lawyer to another.

So far this year General Motors has issued 44 recalls covering 20,000,000 cars.  The big newsmaker was the ignition switch that would fail causing the car to lose all power, steering, braking, etc and crash spectacularly.  

Turns out they knew about the problem for years, but their lawyers covered it up because they didn't want to pay the $.50 to fix each one.  It seems the lawyers trumped the PR folks, the bean counters, and the engineers.

I can't help but wonder what the net cost would have been to GM if they had just let the engineers build the car they wanted in the first place?  So it would have cost $___ more.  So what?  If their cars had a reputation for being top-quality and bullet proof, I'm convinced people would have paid the price. 

Today they'd have better cars and fewer dead-weight lawyers, PR guys, and bean counters.  Win-win-win and win.  



  1. Yeah, the 70's were the dark years for GM. By that time I was in med school, and we pottered about in a VW. However, now I have a pickup, a chevy silverado and hopefully it'll be the last vehicle I'll torture. It has 187,000 miles and works just fine if you ignore it's tendency to guzzle gas like a sailor with a beer.
    I bought a new one 3 years ago to put a camper on for a long road trip, intending to give my old one to my son. After driving the new one for 10,000 miles in 4 months, I gave the new one instead, I like the old one better.

  2. I've owned 4 GM cars: a 77 Nova that was in pretty decent shape considering I didn't get it until 1995, a 1989 Corsica that ran fine for a few years (though eventually it needed some expensive stuff like new brakes and tires), a 1997 Bonneville that was a real lemon (it went through like 2 transmissions though my sister ended up getting a few good years out of it), and a 2003 Bonneville that never had any serious problems (again just stuff like brakes, tires, and a battery that wear out when you have over 100,000 miles). But when I bought my first NEW car I bought a Ford. In large part it was 2010 and the bankruptcy was still looming over GM and Chrysler, plus comparatively it had the features I wanted (like anti-lock brakes) for a good price with the supplier discount rate we got at work. My mom and brother both have cars under that recall so maybe I dodged a bullet there.

  3. When I was in high school (78-82) Fords were the lemons (or at least that's what we thought). And now I own a Ford. My high school self would be APPALLED! Ha.

  4. Big Honda/Toyota fan here. I once had a Toyota Tercel that was really old and I was jonesing for a new car. I quit putting oil in it, hoping it would just die. I think it ran for two more years, and then it was the need for new struts that triggered the new car purchase.

  5. What's good for GM is good for America. Yea, right.

  6. Mrs. chatterbox drives a BMW because she likes to drive and cares about what she drives. I have a Toyota RAV and both cars have given us very few problems.

  7. I laughed out loud when I got to the part where you say, "they're junk". *sigh*
    I've had couple over the years.
    I LEASED a GMC pick-up back in 2000. Had no interest in buying out that thing whatsoever. The fit and finish was horrid. I didn't shift properly and always idled rough. "Oh there was probably old gas sitting in it"? Really, at a dealership?
    My wife *loved* here Olds Touring Sedan. But that thing had so many problems. Smoke coming out of the steering wheel. Power windows that weren't.
    Then we bought the Jetta. Never went back. That Jetta is still on the road 14 years later (gave it to a daughter). Unfortunately, the other daugher has a Saturn, because it was what she could afford. It's been recalled. POS.
    I'll stop now.

  8. I tend to lean towards the 60's for GM myself. I too owned a Camaro, a 68 with low bucket seats and that classic Chevy look. I drove the wheels off my car and it was built like a tank. Those steel bumpers could really take a beating and keep the car looking amazing even after tagging fences, poles, and a few shopping carts.