Wednesday, April 02, 2014

1312 GM Circles the Wagons

Perhaps you remember that fellow, Richard M. Nixon, disgraced and resigned 37th President of the United States.  If you do, you may also remember the question opponents asked about him:  “Would you buy a used car from this man?”

The answer then was “no way!” The answer today might be “absolutely yes!”  Why?  Because chances are the car would run when you turned it on, accelerate when you stepped on the accelerator, stop when you stepped on the brake. Even if Nixon was on the lot.

First we had leaping Audis.  Then we had leaping Toyotas.  And now we have the Chevy Cobalt and a raft of other General Motors lemons, millions of them suddenly and belatedly recalled.  And we have a safety agency asleep at the ignition switch.

Buy a used car today, and chances are it will do all of what it should and little of what it shouldn't.

Meantime, GM is circling the wagons.  And the hatchbacks.  And the sedans.  

“Oh, those cars weren’t made by us.  They were made by the General Motors Corporation, and we are the General Motors Company.”  And that’s true.  The paper entity that was GM Corp. has been turned into the paper entity that is GM Co.

If you think the bankruptcy ended GM’s famous arrogance, think again. It’s true, of course, that the current CEO, Mary Barra is new to the job.  But she’s a GM veteran though apparently one who didn’t previously have enough clout to do something about the company’s death dealing rattle traps if she even knew of them.

But that’s not stopping the company’s Permanent Government from using the Old Time Playbook.  “We didn’t know.”  “There are no lemons.”  “It’s the drivers’ fault.”

We’re waiting to hear about how unionized workers caused the flaws that led to a multimillion car recall. They didn't. But someone will find a way to make it look like they did.

If you remember Nixon, you remember the Ford Edsel, the biggest joke ever played on the auto buying public.  But you know what?  The Edsels may have been foolishly ugly. But they ran.

The safety issues here go beyond the earlier infamous exploding Pintos and Fabulous Flipping Corvairs.  They go beyond the leaping Audis and Toyotas.

As for the federal agency that’s supposed to keep an eye on things like this:  Too much Lunesta or Sominex.  Not enough clout, not enough inspectors and a balky bureaucratic infrastructure … a speed bump where a wall is needed.

Eventually, this mess will get fixed.  Just like Nixon’s Watergate scandal.  But you can bet your extended warranty that like Watergate, lessons will be learned and then forgotten.

A year or five from now, all this will be water under the bridge and the 2018 model year will present its share of death traps.

Meantime CEO Barra and the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration David Friedman -- toothless Dave to his friends -- testified on all this before congress.

Friedman promised to do better next time.  Barra said she was remorseful and announced she’s hired Kenneth Feinberg the lawyer. Feinberg helped sort out claims after 9/11, the BP oil spill and the Boston Marathon bombing.

So apparently some of the dead and injured can expect something of a pay day.  Far more than the 57 cents those bad ignition switches would have cost to replace.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2014


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