Commentary

GM = Generic Malfeasance

Perhaps Mary Teresa Barra, CEO of General Motors since January, should just throw in the towel and recall every car GM has produced since it was founded in September 1908. Once you are at 20 million recalls, it’s not such a leap to figure, "If we screwed up that many cars, chances are we botched pretty much all of them."

The good news is, since GM made such crappy cars throughout its history, there aren't all that many left on the road to haul back to the shop. Moreover, consumers are getting deaf to recalls. Most don't bother to return their affected vehicles to dealers unless they have some sort of evidence there is a problem -- like one of their relatives getting killed. Those who elect to try and get their defects fixed face months of waiting and worry that each time they take out their car, it may be the last time.

Meanwhile GMC, Chevy, Buick and Cadillac dealers who heretofore have used "authorized GM dealer" as a customer selling point, should start  to emphasize their independence by changing their shop names to Joe's Auto Body or Pete's Garage in order to rebuild confidence in their work. How do you sell defective cars, then try to convince buyers you can fix them a few months later?

Experts who have forecast lasting damage to the GM brand(s) were floored when in May, the last remaining reason for Detroit to exist said sales were up 13% from a year ago, tracking its best month since August 2008. But Europeans, apparently more sensitive to death and dismemberment, failed to visit GM showrooms in significant enough number to cause GM European to lose $284 million during its most recent reported quarter.

The average car is made up of somewhere between 1,800 and 30,000 separate parts (depending on your source). That anyone can fit them all together and drive that collection out the door is hard to comprehend. And of course, this assumes that each part works per its specification, which clearly lots of GM parts… don't.  Who's to blame?  The design shop? The manufacturer? The robot that welded the part? The assembly line worker, who had to take a big haircut when GM went bankrupt?  So far the buck hasn't reached Mary T.

One of the problems with cars is that they are over-hyped to the max, with ads promising that if you buy one, you will 1) get laid lots more; 2) have kids that are perpetually well-behaved in the back seat; and 3) get to drive on cool, mountain-clinging roads or in 10 feet of snow at high speeds without negative consequences. For this you are asked to pay in the tens of thousands of dollars.  In exchange you are promised quality that surpasses everyone else's. Rarely does it play out that way in real life.

Take a typical dashboard. It takes an advanced degree in electrical engineering to figure out how to change a setting in, say, an Audi. Phones are the least of your distracted driving worries when it takes you 15 minutes of experimenting with various push buttons and dials to turn off the rear wiper or find your XM Radio resets. If you share your car with someone who changes everything from the seat position to the mirrors to the temperature controls and ALWAYS leaves the radio set to NPR, bodily harm seems like a justified response.

Regardless of if you think your car is worth the tens of thousands of bucks you paid for it, you always get in it expecting that if you end up wrapped around a tree, it will be some other driver's fault (or perhaps your own) -- but not because some bozo at a $58 billion corporation didn't do his/her job. 

Right now, GM is looking like carnival car full of clowns.

Tags: automotive
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1 comment about "GM = Generic Malfeasance".
  1. Karl Greenberg from MediaPost , June 20, 2014 at 10:08 a.m.
    I grew up in Tallahassee where we were tormented by kudzu, a stowaway plant that, like some sci-fi pulp fiction creature, pretty much ate North Florida, killing it was horrendous because when you tugged at one leaf the entire forest would sway. GM has a kudzu problem.